Marshall “Jack” Gibson, a prominent South Portland businessman and philanthropist, died Saturday at his home after a brief illness, his family said Sunday. He was 88.

Gibson, who owned a paving business for nearly six decades and also was a real estate developer, gave $2 million to Maine Medical Center in memory of his first wife, Susan, who died of lung cancer in 1989. The hospital named its 44-bed Gibson Pavilion, where cancer patients receive treatment in a state-of-the-art facility, after the couple.

“Jack’s philanthropy was his hobby,” his family wrote in his obituary.

Every Sunday for years he handed out his home-made shortbread cookies – from his first wife’s family recipe – at the Gibson Pavilion until two months ago, when his second wife, Ruth-Anne Gibson, asked him to stop until flu season ended.

In addition to his support of the Portland hospital, Gibson donated about $500,000 – in $10,000 increments – to many of the 175 municipalities that his company, Commercial Paving & Recycling Co., did business with over the 59 years he operated the firm. The company built roads across Maine, from Kittery to Fort Kent.

The Portland Press Herald reported in 2011 that in the town of Norway, selectmen voted to turn Gibson’s gift into $1,000 property tax discounts for 10 elderly homeowners. In Mapleton, the funds were used to repair the town swimming pool and buy playground equipment.

Gibson also supported the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, the Liberty Ship Memorial at Bug Light in South Portland, the Maine School for Science and Mathematics, the Hospice of Southern Maine and a long list of other causes.

For a birthday of Ruth-Anne Gibson, he donated $100,000 in her name to pay for a new ballfield. The Gibson-Hugo Family Ballfield is located at the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine’s Center Day Camp in Windham.

“I never forget the things that people do for me,” Gibson told Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz in a 2011 interview. “And I look at the entire state as my community.”

Gibson was born on April 1, 1929, in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. He was the only child of Earl and Violet (Jean) Gibson, according to his obituary. The economic pressures of the Great Depression forced the Gibson family to move to Portland to live with relatives.

Gibson was just 7 years old when he started selling magazines door to door. In the summer of 1943, he went to work for New England Shipbuilding’s West Yard, where he drove a truck. He bought his first truck at age 15.

He went to work in the South Portland shipyards at age 13, and although he never finished high school, he had an unflagging work ethic that brought him wealth and success.

“Jack had native intelligence,” said Ruth-Anne Gibson, who married him in 2001.

She said she met her husband on a blind date in 2000. She realized she had fallen in love when he took her on a tour of his recycling plant.

“Wow, this guy is really smart,” she recalled saying to herself.

She said he was an avid newspaper reader with a great sense of humor. “But an old-fashioned sense of humor,” she stressed in a telephone interview Sunday. “No cuss words.”

Jack Gibson was known to say, ” I can only wear one pair of pants at a time and I can only drive one car at a time.”

Gibson sold his paving company in 2004 but continued to work as a commercial and industrial real estate developer at his business, Gibson Realty, until he suffered a stroke three weeks ago. He died of complications of the stroke, determined until the end “to live every second,” said Ruth-Anne Gibson.

She said her husband liked to live quietly. He drove a 2008 Lexus. He never left the house without buffing his shoes and always held the door open for her.

Ruth-Anne Gibson said they would visit family around the country, but after living through a train wreck while traveling in Mexico, they confined their international travels to Glasgow, Scotland, where his first wife was born.

“We decided we would stick with what we knew,” Ruth-Anne Gibson said.

They would visit Glasgow three or four times a year and stay in the same Marriott hotel.

Gibson was the father of two sons – Tom, who lives in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, with his wife, Doreen, and John, who lives in Raymond with his wife, Donna. Gibson also was stepfather to Mark Stockett, who lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife, Naomi Lipke. He leaves six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Tom Gibson said his father was busy when he was a young boy, but their relationship warmed up when Tom struck out on his own as an adult.

“I didn’t see him a whole lot growing up; he was off doing his thing,” Tom Gibson said Sunday. “But as I got older he taught me a lot. He was very generous, humble and very successful.”

Jerre Bryant, the Westbrook city administrator, said Gibson would be greatly missed.

“I knew Jack and always found him to be a kind and very thoughtful person. In both his business and personal life, he was conscientious of the environment and the community,” Bryant said.

Visiting hours are scheduled for Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road, South Portland. Burial will take place this summer. Donations can be made to the Gibson Pavilion or the Gibson-Hugo Family Ballfield.

 

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