James Edwin Gibbons | AspenTimes.com

James Edwin Gibbons

Sept. 26, 1936 — Aug. 20, 2016

Former collegiate and National Football League star James Edwin “Jim” Gibbons, who lived in the Roaring Fork Valley from 1969 to 2006, died Aug. 20, 2016 in Carlsbad, California. He was 79 years old. Family members were able to share his last days and many memories before he succumbed to a short illness.

Jim was born in Chicago, Illinois, on Sept. 26, 1936. After graduating from Lindblom High School in 1954, he accepted a scholarship to play football for the University of Iowa. He earned first team All-American, and first team All-Big Ten honors, and led his team to win the Rose Bowl championship in 1957. He was later inducted into the Hawkeye Hall of Fame.

Upon graduation, Jim married his high school sweetheart, Lila Morgan. Their four children were born in Detroit, Michigan, where Jim was drafted into the NFL and went on to have a celebrated 11-year career as a leading tight end with the Detroit Lions. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 1960, 1961 and 1964, MVP honors in 1964, and continues to hold the record for the longest pass play to end a regulation game in NFL history.

Jim had a longtime passion for the mountains and skiing. He volunteered on the ski patrol at Caberfae, Michigan. Then, in 1969, Jim and Lila moved their family to Aspen, Colorado, where they owned and operated The Blue Moose restaurant, a local favorite in the early 70s for live music. Jim also found time to volunteer as a coach with the high school and middle school football teams.

Jim took great pride in mentoring young players on and off the field, and time spent with family and friends usually centered around his love of sports and being outdoors. In addition to skiing at Ajax, and family ski picnics at Tiehack, he loved playing golf, softball, racquetball, squash, handball and rugby with the Gentlemen of Aspen.

Jim was a member of Aspen Elks Lodge #224 and attended St. Mary’s Church with his kids in tow. His great sense of humor and genuine charisma led him to a successful career in real estate. Along with Lila’s talent for designing and remodeling homes in the Roaring Fork Valley, they expanded their successful efforts to Santa Fe, New Mexico where, in 2004, Lila passed away.

In 2006, Jim married Gayle Van Voorhis of Basalt, Colorado. When Jim retired, they relocated to Palm Desert, then Loma Linda, California.

Jim is survived by his wife, Gayle (Van Voorhis) Gibbons of San Marcos, Calif.; his children, Randy Gibbons (Laura Gibbons) of Parker, Colo., Jill Orschel (Eddie Orschel) of Park City, Utah, Jennifer Gibbons (Jeff Griggs) of Carbondale, Colo., and Jodi Burwell (Clint Burwell) of Vashon, Wash.; and his six grandchildren, Brittney, Brian and Matthew Gibbons, EJ and August Orschel, and Gwen Burwell; as well as his brothers, Bill, Jerry and Mike Gibbons, all from the Chicago, Ill. area, and brother, Ed Gibbons, of Fort Myers, Florida. Jim is preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Lila Lee (Morgan) Gibbons of Chicago, Ill., and parents Edwin James Gibbons and Harriet (Leckelt) Gibbons, both of Chicago, Ill.

A celebration of his life will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Elks Lodge in Aspen, located at 510 E. Hyman Ave.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to: Aspen Elks Lodge #224, “Youth Scholarships — Jim Gibbons,” 510 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen, CO 81611


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