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Russ Gibb saluted b friends, students, colleagues at memorial gathering
The late Russ Gibb's longtime broadcast sign-off was "thank you for just being you."
On Friday, May 17, Gibb was thanked for being HIM during a memorial gathering at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn.
The Grande Ballroom owner, radio DJ (who spread the rumor of Paul McCartney's supposed death back in 1969) and longtime teacher was saluted by a consortium of former students (proudly known as Gibblets) and colleagues -- mostly from Dearborn High School -- Grande rockers and Dearborn civic officials (including Mayor Jack O'Reilly) during the mostly informal three-hour event. It even drew some who had never met Gibb but admired his many accomplishments, including pioneering work in cable television.,
Andrew Fradkin, a Gibblet who's now executor of Gibb's estate, said that the outpouring since his death on April 30 at the age of 87 has been "insane. The number of people who have come out, the stories that have been shared. You kind of knew it, but it's been so dramatic. He really changed a lot of people's lives."
Testimonials to Gibb's impact were spread throughout the Studio A room, including two video screens showing footage and tables laden with awards, articles, photos and citations from at least three U.S. Presidents. M&M candies, one of Gibb's favorite treats, were spread throughout the room, while artist Dennis Loren, whose aunt Nell was one of Gibb's English teachers, signed posters he created for the memorial to benefit a newly established Russ Gibb Memorial Scholarship via the Dearborn Communications Fund.
Mostly Gibb was remembered for his big heart and sometimes gruff demeanor. Several former students spoke about being hauled unexpectedly into Gibb's orbit. "I was walking down the hallway and this guy looks at me and says, 'Do you like video?'," recalled Lance Russell, a 1984 Dearborn High graduate. "I said 'Yeah.' That Saturday I as at Greenfield Village at 5 a.m., hauling cable.
"He let us be us," Russell continued. "He didn't try to tell us what to do. He gave us an opportunity to learn." Russell also noted that despite his ties to the hippie counter-culture via the Grande, Gibb did not favor long hair -- and, in fact, once bumped Russell's grade from a B to an A when he got a haircut.
Bob Kernan, another former student, met his wife Patty and his best friend through Gibb's class. "Russ never taught a lecture in the two and a half years I was in his class," Kernan remembered. "He just created an environment where you wanted to learn. You never had to earn Russ' trust; He just gave it to you, and you hoped not to (mess) it up." A fellow Dearborn High teacher recalled Gibb giving $200 to a student in need without asking the reason why and also facing down the father of another student who felt the A grade Gibb gave her created unrealistic expectations.
"He would take any and every kid," the teacher said. "He'd say, 'I always have a place and I always have a job for anyone.'"
Becky Tyner, widow of the MC5's Rob Tyner, said Gibb was "always a good guy" during the group's tenure as the Grande house band. She remembered coming to a Who show while pregnant with her oldest child and Gibb predicting the show would induce labor; It didn't -- though Who drummer Keith Moon "blessed" her stomach backstage -- but that didn't stop Gibb from saying she did during his shift on WKNR the next day.
Artist Carl Lundgren, who created 27 posters for Grande shows and attended the memorial with his wife Michelle and Laura Grimshaw, widow of fellow artist Gary Grimshaw, said that Gibb "was a great boss. He paid great, always on time. He gave me complete freedom, which you couldn't imagine from anyone back then." Joe Kidd, meanwhile, said Gibb was as much a teacher in his rock 'n' roll guise as he was in the classroom. "I listened to WKNR and he taught us everything we needed to know," Kidd told the gathering. "My dad used to get mad at me because I wouldn't leave the house when Russ was on."
Donations for the Gibb fund are being taken at gofundme.com/russ-gibb-memorial-scholarship.
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