On June 3rd, 2019, James Robert Gibbany left this world in the comfort of his home, surrounded by close family and his beloved dog Sam. In spite of privately wrestling with a serious illness over the last two plus years, Jim always put the needs of others before his own. He was a devoted husband and right up until his declining health prevented it, he worked to create a safe, loving and comfortable home for his wife, Pat.
Jim was born on July 13,1934 in Bairoil, Wyoming, a small town in the oil fields of southern Wyoming. He lived in that area until 1942 when his father “Mel” and mother “Mary” moved the family to Napa in order to start work at the Mare Island Shipyard during World War II. Jim attended Napa schools, graduating from Napa High School and Napa College. At Napa High School, Jim played baseball, basketball and football. A popular fellow, he was elected and served as Napa High School ASB President. But leadership didn’t always mean “good judgment” as illustrated by a favorite story from his high school leadership days, when an impulsive decision to jump the fence and take a dip in the Napa High Pool after a Parent Open House, resulted in he and his buddies cleaning out the Cliff Family chicken coops during days of school suspension; a consequence designed by the principal and fully supported by all the culprit’s parents.
Pat had a memorable “first glimpse” of Jim during high school when he traveled to St. Helena High (where she was a student) in his position as ASB President, to invite St. Helena students to attend the Napa High Mardi Gras dance. Subsequently and fortuitously, Jim and Pat stood next to each other in line for alphabetical role call in their Napa College gym class and that daily interaction was the catalyst of their romance! After graduating from Napa College, Jim and Pat set off to attend college at San Francisco State where they both graduated with degrees in education. Jim and Pat were married in the Napa United Methodist Church on June 10th, 1957 the day after their college graduation. Jim and Pat would have celebrated their 62nd year of marriage this year.
It was time to settle down and look for jobs and the Napa Superintendent of Schools at the time, Dr. Harry McPherson, hired Jim to teach 5th grade at Westwood School and hired Pat to teach 3rd grade at Shearer School. Although Jim loved his brief year in the classroom, his life’s course was set when he was appointed Principal of Westwood Elementary School (now NVLA). He was a career educator and he came in contact with thousands of students, faculty and staff in subsequent positions as Vice-Principal at Napa High School, Principal of Redwood Junior Highiddle School, Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Director of Special Services in the Napa Valley Unified School District. Particularly memorable was the semester Jim stepped in for Frank Humpert as interim Principal at Silverado Junior High, where he joined administrative forces with Roger Ashlock, Dave Wildman and Nancy Wolfe, who fondly referred to themselves as the “Mod Squad.” Many hi-jinks transpired and life-long friendships were formed.
In each of his positions, Jim was known as a hard worker, an advocate for students, staff and faculty alike, and a leader who demonstrated integrity, tact, decency, compassion and fairness in all his interactions. He provided a sense of calm assurance and was an excellent listener. He was approachable and those in his presence knew they always had Jim’s full attention. In addition to his school leadership positions, he also undertook leadership roles in the various community organizations he was a member of including 200 Club, Kiwanis, Elks, and SIRS. In the 1970’s he served on the Napa Planning Commission.
Over the years, Jim and Pat were daughter Kim’s most ardent fans and loving supporters, attending myriad choral and musical theater performances, helping with productions, moves and lending a hand whenever it appeared to be needed. In retirement, Jim and Pat loved spending time with their granddaughters Kandace and Camille and watching them grow up. Jim and Pat also enjoyed many fantastic motor home trips in their beloved “home away from home”, traveling from Alaska to Mexico with close friends Hildi and Corky Schrette and with the SIRS Roving Roosters group.
Lake Tahoe was always an important place to Jim. Whether it was winter ski trips with friends and family, sometimes bunking in Ron Cliff’s cabin, or in the summer at the rustic Gibbany cabin, putzing around, playing games, enjoying Stateline lobster buffets, partaking of cocktail hour on the deck (“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!”) sunning and swimming in the lake, or fishing with Kim, Stacy, Jeff and Patti in Upper Truckee River which was just a stone’s throw away from the cabin, Lake Tahoe held a very special place in Jim’s heart.
In the last couple of years, Jim so enjoyed reconnecting with High School buddies for lunch in Sonoma, telling and retelling stories and reminiscing about “days gone by.”
Granddaughter K.C. (Kandace) says, “Grandpa Jim had a powerfully kind presence. His many years serving as Principal were evident in his patience, power and positivity.”
Granddaughter Camille says, “It’s hard to sum up my grandpa in words; he was inspiring to, and respected by so many people. He will be dearly missed.” Brother Jack says, “He contributed to making the world a better place in so many ways.”
Jim is survived by his wife of 61 years, Patricia, daughter Kim Markovich (Gary), granddaughters Kandace and Camille Markovich, great-grandson Aylo Satori, brother Jack Gibbany (Jan), niece Cori Schneider (David), nephew Rob Gibbany (Nancy), niece Carrie Schaum (Alex), nephew Jason Goff (Anjali), sister in law Marlene Goff, stepmother Maxine Gibbany, stepbrothers Marc Hand, and Max Hand (Bitsy) and numerous extended family. Jim was predeceased by daughter Stacy and brother-in- law Michael Goff. Jim’s love, care, compassion, steadfastness and devotion will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to call him family or friend.
A Memorial Celebration of Jim’s life will be held on Saturday, June 15th, 11:00 at Tulocay Funeral Home, 411 Coombsville Road. In lieu of flowers, the family invites you to contribute to a worthy organization of your choice. Rest with ease, Saint Jim. You will be in our hearts, always… always.