Gael McGibbon, 69, left home for her final adventure on Friday, August 25th, surrounded by all the love and well-wishes of her family and her closest friend.
She had waged a valiant battle with cancer for 13 months.
She will be fondly remembered by the many people whose lives she touched, and missed deeply and always by her surviving family: husband Doug; sister Betsy; children Mark, Jess (Mick), and Andy (Kaitlin); and grandchildren Brendan, Ophelia, Bradley, Weston, and Wyatt.
Always a spitfire, she was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and spent her childhood creating mischief with her older sister, Betsy, and their dog, Dodo.
After high school and college at the University of Cincinnati, Gael moved to Texas, where, while she was working toward a Master of Science degree in geology at the University of Texas at Arlington, a cute kid kept coming into her office to draw pictures on her chalkboard.
When she inquired about his parents, he introduced her to his dad, Doug, a man wearing purple corduroy bell-bottoms.
It was love at first sight, and Doug and Gael were married not long after in Bellingham, Washington. At the time of her passing, they were approaching 46 years together as a couple.
They relocated to Colorado for a brief time after grad school, and then to Battle Mountain, Nevada with new jobs, where Gael’s love affair with the desert mountains began.
After a few years in Battle Mountain they moved on to Reno, where they had their two younger children, Jess and Andy.
They settled in Winnemucca in 1987, where Doug worked many years at exploration geology at gold mines and more recently, as a consulting economic geologist specializing in gold and industrial minerals.
Gael was a “Jill of all trades”. At various times she worked in small business administration, geology, chemistry, and education.
Gael earned two Master’s degrees and a pilot’s license, ran the (Humboldt-Pershing-Lander) Tri-County Development Authority, served as Director of US Operations for a major international assaying/geochemical company, and supervised quality control product analysis for an international health food/supplements company.
Science was one of her many passions, and as an exploration geologist, she combined her love of science with her love of trekking through the Nevada desert.
A self-proclaimed “camel,” she could do a 9-mile hike over rocky hillsides in 90-degree heat, carrying a full-to-the-brim field vest and multiple rock sample bags, on a single canteen of water, rewarding herself with a vodka tonic and a handful of goldfish crackers at the end of the day.
Another of her great loves was education, and during more than 15 years teaching at Winnemucca Junior High, Lowry High School and Great Basin College, she infused her teaching with both enthusiasm and rigor - and only minor embarrassment for Jess and Andy, who both were her students at various points.
She made lifetime friends with more than a few of her students, and touched countless lives, both academically and personally.
She taught abroad when she could, including volunteering in Japan, China, Turkey, and Romania, and traveled to all 50 States, Mexico, Canada, and much of Europe.
Wanderlust was the defining word of Gael’s life, and she made a point of being sure that her kids and, later, her grandchildren, were able to experience as much of the world as they could. Adventures both to big cities and remote locations, in-country and abroad, were what she looked forward to most and were some of her favorite memories.
A fierce and devoted fan and mentor to her grandchildren, her retirement years were spent with family as much as possible.
She enjoyed camping, road trips, and “experience-the-city” trips, and had plans to take each of her five grandkids on an international trip someday.
A celebration of life will be held for friends and family in the backyard at the McGibbon home in Winnemucca from 10 until 1 o’clock, on September 30.
Rest in peace, Gael. We will always love you.