Captain John M. Gibbons of North Falmouth, MA, passed away peacefully at home on May 8, 2018 surrounded by his loving family. He was the husband of the late Doris (McGavin) Gibbons; the two had been married for 56 years at the time of her passing in 2003. He was 95.
John Gibbons grew up in Granville, MA and graduated from Williston Academy in 1941. Having an ambition to attend Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA), he worked at Colt Firearms in Hartford, Connecticut, earning much needed money to assist his widowed mother. Granted admission in December of 1943, John arrived at the Hyannis campus for a war time accelerated matriculation that included sea days aboard the SS AMERICAN PILOT cruising in Long Island Sound. After graduating in May 1944, John was commissioned and immediately deployed as Assistant Navigator and Boat Officer aboard the USS PRESIDENT HAYES (APN 20). He was promoted to Navigator during deployment in the Pacific. Serving during the Leyte Gulf landings, John witnessed General Douglas wade ashore and earned the Asiatic Pacific 1 Star and American Area Victory Philippine Liberation 2 Stars amongst other honors. It was aboard the President Hayes, he met Doris McGavin. She was serving as a commissioned Navy Nurse. They were married on August 1, 1946 in the Navy Chapel on Treasure Island in San Francisco. The couple moved to Holbrook, MA that September.
John joined Pocahontas Steamship Lines as Second Mate aboard the coal collier SS JONANCY in May of 1947 – thus beginning a 30-year career that included promotion to master in 1952. In 1967 Captain Gibbons joined Maritime Overseas Corporation as Master aboard bulk carriers and tankers. The walls of Captain John M. Gibbons’ North Falmouth home tell the tale of a well-traveled life. Above the chair in which he often sat is a hat, one he got while he was in Leyte. He often remarked that there was only a small section between Singapore and Saigon that he hadn’t been to.
Having summered in New Silver Beach for 20 years, it was natural for Doris and John to retire to Wild Harbor in 1978. The Wild Harbor Yacht Club was a great way to sail and fish with his family. As often as possible, he would hunt. A 2015 photo shows results of his skillful deer hunting.
In January of 1978, John took on a new role as a professor at Massachusetts Maritime Academy where he became well-known for stringent adherence to every exact word in the Rules of the Road – a stance that earned an appointment to the United States Coast Guard Rules of the Road Advisory Council. He worked tirelessly in unifying the “Inland Rules of the Road” with the newly established international “Collision Regulations”. Captain Gibbons was Master of the TS Patriot State for four cruises from 1988 to 1991.
Captain Gibbons was honored by the MMA with the Alumnus of the Year Award in 1992, Gold Membership in the Boston Marine Society in 2004, the Navy League of Boston in 2009, and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy Alumni Association Special Recognition Award in 2016 for naval and merchant service.
Captain Gibbons was a member of the Boston Marine Society for 64 years. This long association included numerous committees and terms as President from 1984 until 1987. John received a gubernatorial appointment as Deputy Pilot Commissioner for Massachusetts Pilot District Three, providing oversight and commissioning of state pilots from 1993 until 2008.
John is survived by his loving children, Elizabeth Gibbons of Campbell, California and Fred Gibbons of Los Altos Hills, California; his wonderful grandson, Alexander Will and Alexandra Cole Will of San Francisco, CA; Eduard and Beth Will of Los Angeles, CA; Marco Will of Frankfurt, Germany; the O’Konski family of Bethesda, MD; Lt. JG Alex O’Konski, San Diego, CA; the Schumacher and McGavin families of Upstate New York; the Beattie families of Maryland and California; and many dear friends on the Cape, across the country and around the world. John is preceded in death by his wife, Doris Gibbons and daughter, Mary Gibbons.