Elizabeth Cooper Walls Gibson, 89, formerly of Parkesburg passed away Thursday, March 9. Born and raised in Parkesburg until a recent move to be closer to her family in South Carolina, Elizabeth leaves a rich legacy for the Octorara and surrounding community.
Born to the proud parents of Norman B. and Elner Thompson Cooper, Elizabeth grew up in the frame house located just south of the Chateau Inn on the former Horace Beale Estate in Parkesburg with her two brothers James and Charles Cooper. She graduated from the Parkesburg High School in 1935, attending West Chester College before beginning a lifelong commitment to education throughout a very successful career and retirement.
"She was a strong supporter of education," said Octorara Schools Superintendent Tom Newcome. "She worked behind the scenes."
Newcome described Gibson as "she's a lady that when you meet and know her she has a positive affect on your life."
Newcome said Gibson helped him to look at things.
"She helped open people's minds... to do what's right," he said.
Mrs. Gibson began her professional career teaching at James Adams School (later known as Harris School) in Coatesville in 1942 where she spent 30 years of faithful and dedicated service in education. She earned her Masters Degree at Temple University in 1958 and was promoted to Principal of both Harris and Ridgeway Schools in Coatesville and eventually Principal of Rainbow Elementary School. She was the first African-American woman to be a principal in the district.
Mrs. Gibson married Philip R. Gibson on Sept. 2, 1954 and enjoyed 38 years of marriage. Her legacy of success and good fortune has carried on through her beloved son, retired Brigadier General George H. Walls, Jr., of the US Marine Corps.
Through dedication, commitment and generosity Mrs. Gibson has served on the Octorara School Board, Parkesburg Borough Council, Octorara Taxpayers Association, the Parkesburg Community Involvement Task Force, the Cross Cultural Task Force of the Octorara Area School District, The Parkesburg Decorating Committee, and has been an active volunteer at the election polls as well as serving on many ad hoc committees.
In 2003, the Parkesburg Lions Club honored Elizabeth as "Citizen of the Year".
Prior to her relocation to Cary, North Carolina in August of 2005, she was feted at a gathering of over 100 friends, family and professional colleagues. Speakers praised her as a leader, mentor, community activist and role model.
Former Parkesburg Borough Council President Jim Norton, who had taught at the Coatesville School District for 30 years, said he didn't really get to know Gibson until he came to Parkesburg. They were both involved with the Democratic Party.
"She was very interested in the community," he said. "She wanted to make it a better place."
Long-time Parkesburg Borough resident Bev Ely also spoke of Gibson's interest in the community.
"She was someone who cared and you knew she cared," said Ely. "She was just a super lady... I loved her."
A life-long avid collector and dealer in antiques of the early American period, she was noted for her extensive knowledge of textiles, quilts and the primitive antique form.
She was a member of St. John's Episcopal Church and she supported the Bethany A.M.E. Church of Parkesburg.
She is survived by her son and his wife, Portia; three grandsons, George III, Steven and Kevin and their spouses; and one great-grandson, Kristopher.
Elizabeth's memory will be lovingly remembered by all who knew her. Characterized by her friends and associates as someone who found good in everything, she had a way of making everyone feel special. She freely shared her optimism and hope with others and while she generously invested herself in others, she made the world better just by being in it and overcame evil with good. She did not need to promote the values of determination, perseverance and faith, her life demonstrated those virtues more eloquently. Her life defined how much she cared about others and her community.
Funeral services were held March 14 at St. John's Episcopal Church, Old Philadelphia Pike, Gap, followed by interment in the adjoining cemetery.