Richard Gibson

Dec 19, 1919 - Jul 16, 2014

Richard's Story

Text size

Surry - Richard Cushing Gibson, 94, died on July 16 following a stroke. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the last day of December 1919 to Ethel Howe Gibson and Alec Cushing Gibson.

Dick grew up in Watertown Massachusetts. As a young boy he loved tinkering with electrical equipment. He built his own ham radio set, mastered Morse code, and earned his amateur radio license at age 16. Graduating from MIT in 1942 with a degree in Electrical Engineering, he joined the Army Air Corps as a second lieutenant. He was assigned to an Army Field Signal Company that was working on a new secret radio detection and ranging system, now known as radar.

On May 29, 1942 he married Olive Rae White and they moved to Hobe Sound, Florida, where Dick attended radar school. He was subsequently stationed in the desert outside San Diego, where he was responsible for setting up and inspecting early warning radar stations along the west coast of the United States designed to prevent a wartime attack on the mainland.

When the war ended Dick transferred from the Army Air Corps to the newly-formed Air Force and returned to MIT for graduate studies, ultimately earning his doctoral degree. While at MIT he studied with Charles Stark Draper in MIT's Instrumentation Lab, working on inertial guidance and navigation systems for the Apollo Space Program to land the first man on the moon. Today the systems developed in the Draper Lab are used in commercial airlines throughout the world.

From 1959 to 1965 Dick served as Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Astronautics at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. As he neared retirement he was awarded the Legion of Merit and began a sixteen-year appointment on the US Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.

Following his retirement from the Air Force in 1967 Dick took a position as Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Maine in Orono. He served in that capacity for thirteen years.

Dick was an avid sailor and skier, and instilled a love of those sports in his children and grandchildren. His interest in sailing began at MIT where he was a member of the sailing team and taught sailing at Duxbury Yacht Club in the summers. He was an active member of Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club in Blue Hill, serving two terms as commodore. Dick participated in eight offshore races to Bermuda, five of those in his own boat, Spark. The Spark races were family events, with crews ranging in age from 13 to 81. While stationed at the Air Force Academy, Dick served as the faculty advisor to the ski team and taught all of his children to ski. Later in life he took great pride in celebrating his December 31 birthday each year by skiing with his grandchildren from the top of Sugarloaf to the bottom, without stopping. He did this until his 85th birthday.

In his "Golden Years" Dick married Merrill Pritham and together they shared eight very happy years, cruising the world, camping, and travelling between Maine and Florida.

Dick was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Olive, his son Richard Gibson Jr, and his younger brother Edmund Gibson. He is survived by his second wife Eleanor Merrill Pritham of Sun City Center, Florida; three daughters and their husbands, Ginny Gibson and Dennis McConnell, Anne Gibson and Jeff Dalrymple, and Betsy and Tom Dyer, all of Surry; daughter-in-law Holly Bixby of Blue Hill; five granddaughters Samantha Pangburn and husband Paul, Virginia Dalrymple Lyford and husband Tim, Amy Dalrymple and fiancé Matt Boles, Justine Dyer and fiancé Bryce Kennedy, and Heather Dyer; two great grandchildren Colby Pangburn and Sophie Pangburn; a dear sister-in-law Patricia Gibson; beloved niece Susan Priest and her sons Scott and Bobby; and a large extended family through his second marriage.

A celebration of Dick's life will be held on July 28 at 5:30 pm at Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club in Blue Hill Maine.

Contributions in Dick's memory may be made to the Peninsula Ambulance Corps, Blue Hill Memorial Hospital or the KSEA program at Kollegewidgwok Yacht Club.

Arrangements are under the care of Direct Cremation of Maine 182 Waldo Ave. Belfast, ME 04915
Published on  July 19, 2014
Send flowers
in memory of Richard
See more

Obituary published in

Arrangements by


Share this story with a friend.