Laurel E. "Gibby" Gibson, of Clyde, died Jan. 5, 2006, in Memorial Hospital, Fremont.
Laurel "Gibby" was born near Clyde, Jan. 15, 1921, to Laurel E. Gibson Sr. and Ethel (Greenfield) Gibson. He married Vivian Purcell on Oct. 15, 1942. Gibby was self-employed at Gibson Auto Parts in partnership with his brother, Roger Gibson and sister-in-law Nora Gibson. He retired in 1983. After graduation from York High School he was employed at Clyde Porcelain Steel and Camp Perry. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He began training as an aviator cadet in February 1943 and progressed through pre-flight, primary, and basic training at Freeman Field, Seyman, Ind., where he received his pilot's wings and was commissioned 2nd Lt.
Gibby completed B-17 pilot training at Hendricks Field, Sebring, Fla., followed by combat training with his crew at Avon Park, Fla. In May of 1944 they left Hunter Field, Savannah, Ga., to fly overseas to Italy as part of the first group to fly the southern route, unescorted, by way of Bermuda. He was assigned to the 348th squadron, 99th Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force.
While on their sixth mission, July 8, 1944, over Vienna, Austria, the plane was severely damaged, making it impossible to remain in formation. The crew was forced to parachute out of the plane before it crashed over the mountains near Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Gibby was turned over to the Germans and became a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III.
In January 1945, during a sub-zero blizzard, prisoners of the camp were forced to relocate. Many did not survive the death march to Mooseburg. Liberation came in April 1945 with the arrival of General George Patton and the 3rd Army.
Gibby received the Purple Heart, Air Medal and Prisoner of War Medal. He retired as a Lt. Col. after 20 years with the Air Force Reserves. He remained active in veterans affairs throughout his life as a member of the VFW, past commander of American Legion Post 122 Clyde, service officer of the Ex-Prisoners of War, Maumee Valley Chapter and life member of the Purple Heart. As a board member of the Sandusky County Veterans Service Commission for 34 years, he served terms as president and secretary, retiring from the board in December 2004 because of declining health.
Surviving are son, Donald G. Gibson; and daughter, Vicki J. Young.
Laurel E. Gibson is preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Vivian Purcell Gibson; sister, Janet Gibson Decker; and brother Roger Allen Gibson.
Visitation will be from 10 a.m. Saturday until services at 11 a.m. in Mitchell-Auxter Funeral Home, Clyde.
Memorials may be made to the American Red Cross or the Sandusky County Veterans Memorial Fund.