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'Family's biggest cheerleader' Barbara Gibson, Kirk's mom, dies at 89

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Barbara Gibson, the mother of Tigers legend Kirk Gibson who was a long-time speech teacher and drama director at Clarkston High School and was known as "Ma" by her students, has died. 

Gibson died Oct. 11, surrounded by Kirk and sisters Jackie and Tina. She was 89.

Kirk Gibson with mother, Barbara.

"She loved watching baseball games," Kirk said during an emotional eulogy in Clarkston last week. "People talk about four-hour games. She loved it. I was thinking, what inning of the game would mom's life be right now? I think she'd say the first inning of a doubleheader, of the second game.

"And she loved her plays. She loved a three-act play. What act was she at? Certainly not the first, or the second, or the third.

"It's time for a curtain call, mom. Take a bow. We loved you, and enjoyed the show."

Barbara Gibson grew up in East Lansing, and while later living in Waterford earned her bachelor's degree from Michigan State — a fan of Spartans athletics long before Kirk starred in football there.

At Clarkston, she taught a generation of theater students, and supported them long after they graduated, whether traveling to Broadway, or attending a show at a local community theater.

Away from work, she was the ultimate fan, attending games for decades, whether Kirk's with the Tigers, or one of her grandchildren's baseball, football, soccer, basketball or hockey games. She was vocal, even when sitting in the opponent's fan section, Kirk recalled. And win or lose, she had cookies and brownies to share with the kids.

"She has been the family's biggest cheerleader," her obituary read.

"She was always there," Jackie said in her eulogy.

"You're our hero and filled with a heart of gold," Tina said in her eulogy.

Barbara Gibson's faith also was important to her. She was a member of the Clarkston Methodist Church, and a member of Caring Hearts Bible Study. She sat on the United Methodist Women's Board and the Clarkston United Methodist Church Memorial Committee.

Barbara Gibson, remembered by family for her laugh and ever-present smile, is survived by her three children, nine grandchildren including Tigers prospect Cam Gibson, and 14 great-grandchildren.

Barbara Gibson.

She never played favorites, said Kirk, the two-time World Series champion, even though at times, his siblings disagreed.

During his eulogy, he recalled spending several days recently with his siblings, as his mom was dying. At one point, he grabbed the cribbage board and cards and challenged Chris to a game. Chris took the board and cards over to her mother and asked her to bless it; Chris won that game. Then Kirk did the same, "and I kicked her butt, too."

Kirk also used the word "gamer" to describe his mom. Kirk, of course, is well-known for some of the most clutch moments in baseball history, and he recently got a glimpse of how tough his mom was at the end.

"I wondered where I got it," Kirk said in his eulogy. "I now know.

"She was amazing."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984