Monday, May 20, 2013
By Bill Nemitz firstname.lastname@example.org
The letter, which comes with the promise of a check for $10,000, begins thusly: "I have recently developed a charitable program specifically designed to benefit municipalities such as yours ... Due to the present economic conditions, I feel it might be an appropriate time to institute this program."
Marshall “Jack” Gibson, seen in 2001, operated Commercial Paving & Recycling Co. for 59 years. In that time, he did work for 175 Maine municipalities.
2001 Press Herald file
Who, in this era of "grab hold of what you have and don't let go," would do such a thing?
Marshall L. "Jack" Gibson, that's who.
"I never forget the things that people do for me," Gibson, 82, said with a modest smile Monday in his South Portland office. "And I look at the entire state as my community."
He has good reason.
Gibson was all of 16 when, way back in 1945, he launched what would become Commercial Paving & Recycling Co. He had a dump truck, an ironman's work ethic – he first worked in the South Portland shipyards when he was 13 – and an abiding belief that if you treat people honestly and fairly, they'll return the favor.
For 59 years before he sold the business in 2004, Gibson was the go-to guy for road work in 175 municipalities across Maine. He sealed million-dollar deals with a handshake, called generation after generation of selectmen, road commissioners and town managers by their first names and, in the process, became a very wealthy, very generous businessman.
Well, the Marshall L. and Susan Gibson Pavilion, Maine Medical Center's state-of-the-art cancer-treatment center, sprouted from a $2 million gift in memory of Gibson's first wife, Susan, who died from cancer in 1989.
Every Sunday for the past 11 years, Gibson has returned to the Gibson Pavilion to visit the staff and patients and hand out packages of his Granny Kirkwood shortbreads – he bakes them himself, using a recipe that goes back five generations in his late wife's Scottish family.
Then there's Gibson's support over the years for the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund, the Liberty Ship Memorial at Bug Light in South Portland, Hospice of Southern Maine, Center Day Camp in Windham, the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone ... and, as of last month, the Marshall L. and Ruth-Anne (his wife for the last decade) Gibson Municipal Charitable Program.
It couldn't be simpler: Each month for the next five years, Gibson will send a check for $10,000 to one of the 175 Maine municipalities with which his paving company did business between 1945 and 2004.
That's 60 towns. That's $600,000. And that, if it's all still going well after five years, will be just the beginning.
The money comes with no strings attached, although Gibson "suggests" that the towns funnel it toward their children, their community centers or their elderly because, as he noted with a chuckle, "I happen to be one."
"I don't think he's going to have many people say, 'No thanks,'" mused Chris Lockwood, executive director of the Maine Municipal Association, which is helping Gibson launch the effort. "This is a very extraordinary offer on his part."
Gibson's first 12 letters went out July 15 to parts of Maine where he felt the current economic downturn weighs the heaviest: Washburn, Mapleton, Littleton, Mars Hill, Fort Kent, Ashland and Van Buren in Aroostook County; Staceyville in Penobscot County; Norway and Peru in Oxford County; Machias in Washington County; Unity in Waldo County.
He addressed the letters to the current ranking administrative officials in the towns, and took the time to copy his contacts from years past, most of them long retired, "so they can bask in some of the glory" when the $10,000 checks arrive.
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