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‘The youngest 89-year-old we had ever met’

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Larry Gibson, a tireless worker for social justice, dies

By MAX SPARBER / Community News Editor

Larry Gibson’s obituary, published on Nov. 4 in the American Jewish World, summed up the shock felt by the Jewish community at Gibson’s death: he was in the peak of health, even at age 89, the obit informed us. He died in an accident.

And the text offered a word you don’t often see in the typically dry language of the obituary, but one that seems appropriate to the circumstances. Gibson didn’t merely die in the auto accident. He died “senselessly.”

Larry Gibson (Photo: Linkedin)

The word was right, as everything about Gibson’s death seemed senseless. He had dropped his car off for repairs and was walking a scant four blocks back to his house, and he was struck by a car.

While there is never a good time for a fatal accident, the Star-Tribune detailed Gibson’s recent good fortunes, which made his accident seem especially cruel: He had just received an advance copy of a book he had written, his first. He had just met his first great-grandchild. He was planning a trip to Eastern Europe with his oldest son.

Additionally, his health was robust, his zeal for life undiluted, as it typically was: Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman described him in her eulogy as “the youngest 89-year-old we had ever met.”

Let us discuss his book for a moment, as it gives us a glimpse into his storied career. The book, due in November, is titled Not Just Numbers, Rediscovering the Promise and Power of Marketing Research. Gibson had been the head of marketing research at General Mills, where he worked for 20 years, and the book summarized his considerable expertise in the field. “The multibillion-dollar marketing research industry has largely failed,” reads the book’s blurb on, and promises that Gibson can show an approach to the topic that is at once “more scientific and more practical.”

Gibson was also an extraordinarily active member of the Jewish community. He met Lois Kestenbaum Gibson, his wife of 68 years, playing bridge at the Hillel House at Ohio State University.

He was a member of Temple Israel in Minneapolis for 50 years, and was a board member for the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition, which named the Lawrence D. Gibson Interfaith Social Justice Award after him. This award recognizes work done in an interfaith context that moves members of a community to effective public action, and is given to one individual each year.

Additionally, he was a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota for 30 years, including serving as president from 1985-1988 and spending decades on the board of directors.

“Larry Gibson’s impact on the Jewish community is immeasurable,” JCRC Executive Director Steve Hunegs wrote in an official statement from the organization. “His commitment to the JCRC was unparalleled. His passion for Jewish issues and social justice inspired many people along the way.”

The statement further quotes Alan Silver, who served as JCRC president from 2006-2008: “Larry was both a mentor and a friend. I joined the JCRC board of directors shortly after Larry’s presidency, and he has been my role model on what it means to serve the Jewish community. His tireless work furthering Jewish values has inspired me. This is a tremendous loss for the community”

“Larry lived with great principle, with an immense sense of justice and righteousness,” Rabbi Zimmerman said of him. “He strategically figured out how to find an alternative pathway when one door was closed.”

1 Comment

  • Every word about Larry is “RIGHT ON”!! I served on many community boards with him and ALWAYS, ALWAYS admired his “intensity” in trying to vote, and deliver the very best that would help “people” (Jewish or not) who needed help!!

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