Marjorie Bacon Giebitz

Marjorie Bacon Giebitz

A woman with many ties to Berne, Marjorie Bacon Giebitz died Wednesday, July 6, 2016, at her Rushville, Illinois home after a long illness. She was 86.

Called Marge by all who knew her, Mrs. Giebitz shared with her husband a love for upstate New York — Berne especially — even after many years of living in other states and traveling. Her husband, Robert Giebitz, said they went through “every state but North Dakota” in their retirement.

A woman of many parts — an archaic phrase that this well-educated woman, with her love of language and history, might appreciate being applied to her — Mrs. Giebitz was born Sept. 16, 1929, in Gloversville, New York, the daughter of Harry F. and Florence (née Brookins) Bacon. The family had a small farm. Her husband says she was always proud of her rural roots and proclaimed them.

“She would get her dander up,” said Mr. Giebitz, if anyone challenged that claim.

For both her and her husband, their marriage was their second. Some time after each divorced and, when they both found themselves living in New Mexico, they were introduced to one another by a client of Mr. Giebitz’s insurance agency. Their marriage endured for 35 years, ending only with her death.

Mrs. Giebitz had four children from her first marriage and Mr. Giebitz had five. The resulting family merger eventually produced 32 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren the couple happily shared.

“She adopted my children as much as I adopted hers,” said Mr. Giebitz. He credits her “wonderful personality” for making the merger of their families as successful as it was. A family reunion, the last in Colorado Springs with 52 family members in attendance, happened every 10 years.

They found themselves in Rushville during the last years of Mrs. Giebitz’s life in order to be close to her daughter, Linda, who lives there.

The couple’s ties to Berne are historic.  Mrs. Giebitz’s great-grandfather, David P. Warner, became the pastor of South Berne Congregational Christian Church in 1856, two years after its founding.  For all but 10 of the ensuing years, he served the church until his death in 1904.  The Giebitzes liked to attend the family reunion of that family branch, held at the church every summer, whenever possible.

Mr. Giebitz’s family owns Helderberg Bluestone, the last remaining local bluestone quarry. His father resurrected the business — “It was on the rocks,” jokes Mr. Giebitz — in 1955. It is a thriving business today with three generations involved and with Mr. Giebitz still an occasional geologist consultant.

As a married couple, the Giebitzes visited Berne as often as they could but never lived there.

Instead, they spent most of their married life in Portales, New Mexico, where Mr. Giebitz had a successful insurance agency and operated a small-scale irrigated farm (“mostly peanuts and some corn and alfalfa”). The couple kept their rural roots alive.

After retirement, they settled in Crossville, Tennessee, in the Cumberland Mountains, where they could show visitors the town’s claim to fame, “the world’s largest treehouse.”

Mrs. Giebitz attended the University of Rochester where —  her husband still marvels at this — she studied Latin. “I think that gave her her mastery of words,” he says.

Later she studied practical nursing in Pinellas Park, Florida. No sooner had she received her LPN license then she was called upon to put her new skills to good use.  Mr. Giebitz recounts that a deadly tornado struck Pinellas Park the day of her graduation.

Later, she went on to work at Clovis Memorial Hospital in Clovis, New Mexico, for 10 years, and at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque for six years, her husband says.

She wanted to be an licensed practical nurse, he says, because she wanted to be “a real nurse.”

Her life outside her work was full. She taught Sunday school at the First United Methodist Church in Portales, New Mexico, for 27 years. “She made a Sunday school teacher out of me, too,” her husband said.

She was also an active member of P.E.O.,  which publicly stands for “Philanthropic Educational Organization,” a women’s organization that helps female students complete a college education.

“She was a great reader,” Mr. Giebitz said, “especially of historical novels.” She was a bit of a history buff, he said. Both he and she served as volunteer campground hosts for two summers at Villanueva State Park in the Pecos Valley of New Mexico.

He credits his wife with changing him for the better.

“I learned forbearance from her, “ he said. “I was always known to have a quick temper, but through the years I have mellowed. She helped me with that.”

Traveling the open road in their mobile home after retirement provided many happy memories.

“We did what some may think a silly thing,” he recounts. “When we reached the Atlantic Ocean one trip we dipped our front wheels into it. And later, on a Pacific beach, we dipped them again.”

Not silly at all.

****

Marjorie Bacon Giebitz is survived by her husband, Robert; her sister, Jean Whittier, and her husband, John, of  Tucson, Arizona; one brother, Robert, of Clearwater, Florida;  and by four children: Cynthia Leacock and her husband, Gordon, of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Linda Tribbey and her husband, John, of Rushville, Illinois; Robert Dilmore and his wife, Tammy, of Pfafftown, North Carolina; and Mark Dilmore and his wife, Debbie, of Charlotte, Tennessee.

She is also survived by five stepchildren: Margaret Loring and her wife, Vicki, of Las Cruces, New Mexico; William H. Giebitz and his wife, Jeannie, of Socorro, New Mexico; Robert P. Giebitz and his wife, Amalia, of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Paula Clark and her husband, Chris, of Exeter, California, and Martha V. Conway of Old Saybrook, Connecticut. She is also survived by 32 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Her son, Jeremiah Dilmore, died before her.

Memorial services were held  Monday, July 11, at the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Rushville, Illinois. Interment will be in the South Berne Rural Cemetery at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to the First Christian Church, 390 North Liberty Street, Rushville, Illinois 62681. Or to Hope Blooms, 5527 Cornwallis Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3K 1B3.

— Tim Tulloch

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