Patricia O’Donnell Gibson passed away on April 6, 2022, after living with Alzheimer’s disease for the last five years. Patty was born on March 15, 1945, in Detroit, MI, to Pauline and Pete O’Donnell. After graduating from Rosary High in Detroit, MI, in 1963, Patty felt compelled to join the convent with the sisters of St. Dominic of Adrian, MI. Patty stayed with the Adrian Dominicans for five years, but eventually she felt called to leave and have a family of her own. In 2011, Patty wrote and published a book about this time in her life titled The Red Skirt: Memoirs of an Ex Nun.
After leaving the convent, Patty graduated with a teaching degree from Sienna Heights College and began a family with her first husband, David. They lived in Irish Hills, MI, where both Jesse and Amanda were born and Patty still has several dear friends. Patty began her long and successful career as a teacher while they lived in this area.
Patty met Louis Gibson in 1985 while singing in the Tri-County Community Choir in Addison, MI. He noticed her smile and the rest is history. They married on June 20, 1986, and moved into their home in St. Joseph, MI, shortly thereafter. Patty taught English for the St. Joseph Public Schools from 1987 until she retired in 2002. As a teacher, Patty left an impact on the lives of her students, as well as the teachers with whom she taught. She led her classroom with compassion and encouraged her students to find their voices, as she truly believed in the power of words. In 1992, Patty earned a master’s degree in English Literature from Western Michigan University. A few years later, she faced the difficulties of breast cancer and became a survivor (1998).
Patty is survived by her husband, Louis Gibson; her sister, Maureen (John) McDonald, and brother, Jim (Marlene) O’Donnell; her children, Jesse (Shona) Pentecost and Amanda (Nic) Langlois; and her step-children, Patrick (Lori) Gibson, Ann (John) Dziuba, Steve (Laura) Gibson, Ellen (Scott) Gibson-Kennedy, and Mary (Keith) Jacobsen. In addition, Patty is survived by her and Lou’s combined 15 grandchildren: Seth, Olivia, Sam, Spencer, Mary, Ryan, Josie, Megan, Finn, Neil, Cooper, Elena, Riley, Maeve, and Penny.
In 2001, Patty and Lou moved to their lake home on Paw Paw Lake in Watervliet, MI. She spent her retirement years at the lake surrounded by all the things she loved—her garden, her book club, her kids and grandkids, her wonderful friends and husband. It was at their lake home where Patty will be remembered as an exceptional host, and an even better conversationalist. She passes down to her children and grandchildren her love of spreading great food around the table and turning up the music to spark a “clean-up dance party.” Patty cherished being a grandmother and spent hours with the kids, playing, reading, or creating an imaginary world of fun. At the end of the day, she adored watching the sunset from the porch swing, sharing stories with whomever was lucky enough to be by her side.
Patty was genuine; she taught us how to live by simply being who she was. She always found a way to laugh through the beauty and the pain, as she believed that life’s complexities were to be explored. Patty was always ready for a good trip and traveled often with her siblings, her husband, her friends, and her children. She found travel to be renewing and she immersed herself in different histories, which gave her perspective on her own life and values.
The last five years of Patty’s life were hard; Alzheimer’s took her beautiful mind from her. Lou shifted his life to be her caregiver; he spent as much time as possible by her side and created moments for the rest of us to continue to connect with her. Patty is preceded in death by her mother, Pauline O’Donnell, her father, Pete O’Donnell, and her sister, Margaret Beekman. Lou and Patty’s family would like to thank the staff and skilled nurses at Clarke Retirement at Franklin in Grand Rapids, MI, and her brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Marlene O’Donnell, for helping to make her last two years in Grand Rapids comfortable.
Cremation has taken place and a memorial service is being planned for May 7, 2022, at 11 AM at Shadowland on Silver Beach in St. Joseph. Donations can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association on Patty’s tribute page at http://act.alz.org/goto/Patricia_Gibson.