Farewell Eric. We Miss You

Those who knew Eric Gibson — one of the most dedicated researchers and finest storytellers at the Paris Museum and Historical Society — were saddened to hear of his death on Thursday, June 4th.

Eric was in his mid-80s. He had gone to the hospital for gall bladder surgery and his heart stopped. Unfortunately the medical team could not revive him.

All of us at the museum send our condolences to Linda Charlton and extend our sympathy to Eric’s family and friends.

There will be no funeral because of the coronavirus pandemic. But tributes and memories are pouring in from fellow volunteers, co-workers and his friends.

“Eric was a Wednesday afternoon regular, such a hard worker” recalled Marlene Dayman. “I will miss his afternoon greetings with his wonderful Welsh lilt.”

“I will remember Eric quietly and diligently beavering away at the desk, preserving our wonderful pictures of Paris past” said former PMHS president Cate Breaugh. “He was very self-effacing, but had a sharp sense of humour that I looked forward to. I enjoyed our little chats now and then.”

Marg Deans remembers Eric’s fun side. “Eric was my co-conspirator in breaking the ‘no food in the archives’ rule.  It was a bit of naughtiness we all enjoyed. Welsh cakes are a pan-fried cookie fragrant with cinnamon and nutmeg. Sometimes Eric would make them and sometimes I would. The Wednesday team would gather around mugs of tea and just enjoy our friendship.”

“His calm and serene nature helped me through a few times when I was trying to go too many ways at once,” said curator Tina Lyon.

“Rest in peace, Eric,” said Sharon and Sean Murphy. “We will truly miss you.” They described him as a “real gentleman” with a sunny disposition who was willing to help wherever he could.

“A very humble and gracious man” said Bob Hasler simply.

Eric, an aeronautical engineer, was born in South Wales. He moved to England to work as a designer of aircraft engines. In 1964 he was recruited by Canadian aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney.

One of his great regrets was that he emigrated 11 years too late to be part of the crack team of designers and engineers that conceived and built the Avro Arrow, the fastest, most advanced supersonic jet of its time.

But he studied the legendary aircraft, pored over drawings and technical specifications and learned how history, politics and cost overruns conspired to kill the Avro Arrow in 1959. His lecture on the storied interceptor jet at the Paris Museum in 2018 was one of our best attended and most appreciated.

When he retired in Mississauga, Eric turned to quieter pursuits: philately, local history, reading and freelance writing. He published two books: Mississauga Moments, a collection of stories of the history of Mississauga and More Mississauga Moments in the same vein.

How did he end up in Paris? Eric answered that question with one word in a conversation with this writer: “Love”.

He came to town on a visit, met Linda Charlton and was smitten. After a few more visits, he pulled up stakes and moved to Paris. Shortly afterward, he became a member of PMHS, then a regular Wednesday afternoon volunteer and an expert in scanning military photos and taking meticulous pictures of newly-accessioned donations.

Sometimes as he sat at the scanner, intent on work, people thought Eric was too busy for chatter or socializing. But when he broke for tea he shared tales of his travels and droll observations about life.

Eric made his mark in many fields and disciplines. The Paris Museum is lucky that our research room was one of them.

Carol Goar

Obituary for Eric William Gibson