David Franklin Gibson
July 14, 2006
David Franklin Gibson, longtime Aspen resident and architect, died Monday, July 3, when his plane crashed in Montrose with friend and instructor Larry Smalley on board. Gibson was 61.David was born January 7, 1945, in Warren, Ohio, to Harry and Sally Gibson. He had one older half brother, Dick, and two older half sisters, Patty and Margie. David was the firstborn child of his mother Sally. He had three younger sisters, Kathy, Janie, and Susan, and two younger brothers, Gary and Jim.
In his youth David seemed destined for the heights of national leadership. He attended Warren G. Harding High School in Warren, Ohio, from 1960 to 1963, where he was elected class president each year and student body president in the fall of 1962. That year he was also elected Boys’ State Governor of Ohio and President of the Ohio Association of Student Councils – the highest honors a student could achieve. He was also a National Merit Scholar. In a personal statement that year he wrote that the greatest contribution he could make to his family and community would be to “lead by example.” Throughout his life he did not waver from that principle.From the beginning his commitments and work ethic were unmistakable. Of all the honors and accomplishments of his youth, David always seemed most proud of a 4:30 a.m. paper route he kept from age 11 through 14, often bragging to his children that he never missed a single day.Gibson’s college years became a story of forking paths. He entered Yale University in fall 1963 on a full scholarship. There he planned to continue his leadership pursuits by studying law and politics. The turmoil of the era, however, soon turned him in other directions. He explored Russian language, English literature and drama before finding architecture.He was married briefly in college and had one daughter, Eren, in 1967. As a full-time student and a single parent at Yale School of Architecture, David also worked a full-time night job at a Winchester rifle factory in order to provide for his young daughter.
David first came to Aspen on a Yale work-study program in which he helped build the Community School in Woody Creek. After finishing graduate school in 1972, he moved to Aspen permanently.During their first several years in Aspen, David and Eren lived in various makeshift houses he built, including a covered-wagon treehouse in Starwood and a plastic Visquine house over a stream in Woody Creek.In fall 1978 Dave married Kathy at the Prince of Peace Chapel. Together they had two sons, Jared in 1981 and Colin in 1984.David worked construction before establishing his first architectural firm in 1977. His first Aspen landmark project was the Wildwood school. With Augie Reno, David established Gibson-Reno Architects in 1981; the partnership lasted until 1999, when David went into independent practice. In 1993 he started a second office in Telluride, where he would split time for the rest of his career. For David there was no deadline too soon, no drive too long. He did whatever it took to get the job done. He may well have been the hardest-working man in Colorado. As an architect David made his clients the highest priority, but still achieved a distinctive personal style. He specialized in private homes but also devoted much time to civic works, including churches, libraries, and schools. He was deeply aware of how buildings shape lives and allowed his style to emerge from this. In Aspen and Telluride he quietly left his legacy in such form and function.
The weekly commute between Aspen and Telluride led David to aviation. In 1995 he began flight training and earned his pilot’s license in 1996. In 1997 he bought his first plane, a Cessna 172. He immediately fell in love with flying, and it became his main hobby. David was always an avid outdoorsman, and especially enjoyed hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. He was a man of unshakable faith and an active member of First Baptist Church since the 1970s.After a fierce but victorious battle with colon cancer in spring 2003, David’s final years were defined by a renewed vigor in life, family, an ever-improving marriage, world travels and his professional and artistic prime. Life was good. David had, just one week before his death, returned from a weeklong vacation to the Cayman Islands with his wife and two sons.For his family he succeeded in being an incomparable provider and an absolute center of gravity, stability and reliability. He led by example to the end. Just as his death is an incalculable loss to his family and community, his character and conduct were a gift.David is survived by his wife Kathy, 53, his daughter Eren, 39, his sons Jared, 24, and Colin, 22, his mother Sally, his brothers Dick, Gary, Jim, and his sisters Patty, Margie, Kathy, Janie, and Susan.