Remembering Gib ...

I think it was sometime in 1983 that Elmo Torres invited Anita and me to a gathering at Gib and Madelein Bergquist’s home. It was a chance acquaintance that led to one of the great friendships of our lives.

Over the years we attended many more of those gatherings and through those events came to meet a few of the fascinating people who found themselves drawn to this pair. Between rounds of Trivial Pursuit and hanging around the barbecue grill it didn’t take long to discover that Gib had a knack for telling stories — many of which had actually happened.

He had plenty of life experience; an eye for detail and an ear for dialect, all of which helped him sketch his tales of Florida cracker lore, FBI adventures and vivid moments of just plain everyday life.

Gib and I used to joke about having a “family resemblance,” speculating that we must share a Scandinavian ancestor or two. After all, were we not both bearded? And did we not both have physiques resembling Hagar the Horrible?

We weren’t the only ones who noticed the resemblance. One day at the Anna Maria Island Community center, when I was making photos of Little League teams for the Islander newspaper, one of his young players studied us carefully, looking from one to the other of us as if trying to solve a puzzle. Finally, pointing at me, he asked, “Is that your dad?”

Of course Gib said “Yes,” and continued to refer to me as “Dad” for quite a while afterward. I would be pleased to have been his dad, or his brother, any of his kinfolk. As it is, I’m honored to have been his friend.

It was a shock, but not a surprise to learn that he was gone. After all, we’re all here for just a short time. But I also know that our present separation is only temporary and that, eventually, we’ll pick up our friendship where we left off. Until then we’ll have to settle for remembering the many good times we had with him, and enjoying the stories and the good friends he left behind.

The world is a better place because he lived. Who can claim better than that at the end of his days?

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