Christopher Burke Gibson, 1954-2005
Gibson, a storyteller, skilled craftsman and self-trained scholar
who traveled the hemisphere by foot, by bicycle and by fishing boat,
reached the end of that restless journey on July 26, 2005, when he
drowned in Cayucos Creek. He was 51.
Born Jan. 22, 1954 in Chula Vista, Christopher Burke Gibson moved to
Cayucos with his family at the age of 10. He attended high school at
Coast Joint Union High School and in Los Angeles, and then pursued a
self-taught education of remarkable breadth and intensity, focusing
particularly on philosophy, literature, and history. In 1972 he followed
his sister, Gaelyn Godwin, to Berkeley where he began an ongoing
engagement with members of the intellectual community there.
Langdon Winner, a professor at Rensselaer University, knew Mr. Gibson in
San Luis Obispo and at Berkeley. "He was the most intense person I've
ever known," Mr. Winner wrote, "someone who could talk with you for
hours and hours on end about an amazingly wide range of topics -- music,
philosophy, religion, politics, you name it.... He was fascinated by the
exquisite clarity of Wittgenstein's philosophy and the pure sound of the
classic tracker pipe organs, especially the way Helmut Walcha played
J.S. Bach organ concertos."
Highly skilled with his hands, Mr. Gibson often worked in carpentry, but
also pursued specialized labors far afield. In the 1970s, he worked on
fishing vessels out of Alaska, Seattle and California, and he helped to
construct boats at the Hinkley Yard for Boat Building. His interest in
music led him into the employ of the master organ builder John
Brombaugh. Mr. Brombaugh wrote of Mr. Gibson, "Chris was quite a guy,
like no one I'd ever met anywhere: very kind, thoughtful and positive."
Mr. Gibson also mastered the craft of weaving.
In the early 1980s Mr. Gibson traveled across the country by bicycle
several times, including a journey from California to Quebec, and he
traversed the California Coast by bicycle many times. "He had excellent
bikes and could repair everything," recalled his sister, Ms. Godwin. "He
disguised his excellent bikes while on tour by painting them black,
obscuring all brand names, and tying colorful head scarves to the
handlebars. On his cross country tours he would sometimes get bored on
the long flat stretches, so he would hitchhike and invariably get a ride
- bike, panniers and all - for as far as he wanted to go, often ending
up with new friends."
From the early 1990s until the present, Mr. Gibson pursued a colorful
career as a village raconteur in the cafes and bookshops of San Luis
Obispo. At the Coffee Merchant, Uptown Espresso, Barnes and Noble and
Starbucks, Mr. Gibson would regale listeners with tales of his
adventures, entertain them with off-color jokes, and lecture informally
on such topics as philosophy, music, and the art of tying knots. For
many of these years he could be seen in the company of Piglet, a
voracious and charming small black dog, who has since gone to live with
Chris loved well-designed devices from motorcycles to airplanes to
tools. A man of the sea, he loved boats of any scale. He was an avid
walker with a beautiful lanky gait who often spoke of the importance of
a good pair of boots.
Mr. Gibson is preceded in death by his father, Mr. Malcolm John Gibson
Jr., his grandfather, Mr. Malcolm John Gibson of Cayucos, and his
grandmother, Mrs. Mabel Ruby Gibson of Cayucos.
He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Anna Burke Harris of Tucson Ariz., a
brother Mr. John Gibson of Long Beach, and a sister Ms. Gaelyn Godwin of
Mr. Gibson's friends have held a number of remembrances in his honor,
with a final one to take place Saturday, Sept. 3 at 11 a.m. at Grace
Church, 1350 Osos Street, San Luis Obispo, with a lunch to follow.
Memorial contributions may be made by listening to the music of Bach,
sharing a long story with a loved one, or helping a friend through a