Yale University

In Memoriam

John "Demi" Gibson, IV


Demi Gibson
(1964 graduation
  • Biography
  • Remembrance by David Gibson, his brother
  • Remembrance by Tony Lee '64
  • Remembrance by Ward Wickwire '64

Biography

Demi Gibson was born in Boston MA, later growing up in Sewickley PA. He graduated from Andover and Choate. Demi was in Delta Kappa Epsilon, playing soccer and also lacrosse, which he captained.  After graduation, Demi served in Vietnam. When he returned, he took up flying but experienced a serious injury in an accident.

On April 1, 1970, Demi left home to start employment. However, he simply disappeared. After extensive searches, his parents in 1977 had him declared legally deceased.


Remembrance by David Gibson, his brother

Demi was a driven or focused individual who once starting a task or project never left that project until it was done . One year he came home from Andover to find his 1949 Ford that he had left out all winter had a cracked block. He tied a hoist to a tree in our driveway hauled the engine and rebuilt it. It took him almost three days and he never ate or slept during that time.

He certainly was a remarkable and complex and very self-sufficient individual who struggled after his tours in Vietnam and his plane accident . He was aware that "something" was going on in his head that he could not explain. He spent hours in the library reading books on what little was known about mental health at the time. He was convinced that it was a chemical or nutritional imbalance and his psychiatrist basically threw up his hands and said that he could not reason with Demi because Demi was more informed on the subject than he was. When you look at how we treat psychological disorders today, Demi might well have been on the right track.

Demi was great brother and a mentor to me in many ways, and paraphrasing a quote from, I believe, Eleanor Roosevelt, "He walked into people's hearts and left footprints that never disappeared."


Remembrance by Tony Lee '64

When I arrived on the Andover campus as a sophomore in the Fall of 1957, one of the nicest, most respected upper classmen was Demi Gibson. He was one year ahead of me, was president of his class, always laughing and joking, and was one of the school's best athletes. I played on the JV and varsity hockey teams with him. His brother, David, was a year behind me, was also an excellent athlete and a fun person to be with. I ended up being closer to David while I was at Andover.

Demi did a postgraduate year at Choate and we arrived on the Yale campus together in the Fall of 1960. We played soccer together for 4 years and, since he was the right wing and I was the right halfback, we played very closely — and well — together. We strategized how to set up fast breaks and counter-attacks, and backed each other up. I enjoyed our relationship on and off the field. His parents came to many of our games and I got to know and really enjoy them too.

I lost touch with Demi after graduation. I heard he went to Vietnam, returned, got a pilots license and had a bad plane accident that seriously injured himself and a passenger.

In the late 1970s, when I was living in California, I read a notice in the Andover alumni magazine that his parents had finally given up a multi-year search and Demi was officially declared dead. I contacted David and he sent me a long letter, which I unfortunately did not keep. I cried like a baby after reading it.

The essence of David's letter, as I recall, was that the plane accident had seriously damaged Demi's legs and he was partially crippled. He suffered from depression and spent quite a bit of time at his parents' house, which was then in Scranton PA. He finally received a job opportunity (Bethlehem Steel in Baltimore?). The weekend before he was to start the job, he got in his car to make the trip, and he and the car were never seen again. It could have been foul play, but David was convinced it was suicide. His parents searched for years at great expense — physically, emotionally and financially — until they finally gave up.

Demi was so talented, and it ended so tragically. It is very sad.


Remembrance by Ward Wickwire '64

I knew Demi and David, and their parents, where we all grew up in Sewickley PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  Demi, who was in a class ahead of me at the Sewickley Acacemy, was always respected as a person and athlete.  He was a leader whose opinion was always sought.

A common destination for prep school was Andover.  I followed Demi, graduating a class behind him in 1960.  At Andover, Demi excelled in sports and leadership.  He was always one to volunteer (or be recruited for) responsibilities in class governance and whose inputs on major issues were sought.

After graduation, Demi did a post-graduate year at Choate before joining our class at Yale, 1964.  While our paths did not cross much directly at Yale, he was very much a part of the Yale environment and continued to excel in athletics.  As at Andover, he was also involved in class governance. We frequently drove back to Sewickley for Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations.

I lost track of Demi after Yale.  He did do a tour in Vietnam and took up flying on his return.  I understood from his brother David that he had an accident while taking off in his plane with a girlfriend.  Both lived but were injured. Demi had serious leg and back problems from which he never fully recovered.  As a result, Demi, who was always an enthusiastic participant in sports, could no longer be active.  In addition, he was concerned with his passenger who was also injured.

I later learned from David that he had been fighting depression with his inability to remain active and had disappeared on his way to start a new job.  His family continued an active search for him for years afterwards and finally gave up.

My connections with Demi go back a long way and, although we never saw each other after Yale, I always had a deep respect for his leadership, commitment to athletics, and his friendship.  As we look towards our 50th reunion, I miss him, knowing that he would have played an active role in planning and leading the event.