Gibbs Morgan Smith
1940 – 2017
Gibbs Morgan Smith passed away October 28, 2017, in Ogden, Utah. He was born in Oakland, California, June 24, 1940, to his dentist father and artistic mother, G. Gibbs and Iola Smith. The family moved to Kaysville in 1947. He attended Davis High School and graduated from the University of Utah with a BS and an MS in history.
Gibbs married Catherine Ellison Wilcox on June 2, 1966, in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. He was a high priest in the Barnes Park Ward of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints. His favorite calling was home teacher.
Gibbs did graduate work in American cultural history and architecture at UC Santa Barbara. While there, his master’s thesis on labor activist Joe Hill was published as a book and then made into a movie. Time spent working on the labor movement had a profound influence on Gibbs’ future perspective. In 1969, Gibbs and Catherine launched their publishing company, Peregrine Smith, in Santa Barbara, then in 1972
moved the company to east Layton. The company name was later changed to Gibbs Smith. He was always proud to export culture from Layton, Utah, to the world.
Gibbs was an artist who painted stylized urban imagery and landscapes. He was well known for his paintings of bookstores, which appeared on the company catalog cover.
Gibbs lived life uniquely. His larger-than-life personality exuded can-do positivity, and “can’t be done” was not part of his vocabulary. He was a classic Renaissance man, intrigued by ideas and cultures; he could converse on any subject. An astute observer of nature who enjoyed the world through the vivid colors of flowers, sunsets, redrock, and forest landscapes, he relished the music of the changing seasons.
He loved car trips and train travel. His yearly routine included New York or points east for the book conventions, Santa Fe for the opera and Indian Market, Cody and Jackson Hole for the Western Design Conference, Boulder, Utah, for Thanksgiving and hiking with Sierra Clubbers over New Year’s. Favorite places away from home were New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, Kelly, Wyoming, and the redrock country of southern Utah. Among his loves were midcentury modern design, vintage silver trailers, impressionist art, and the culture and spirit of California. He enjoyed cross-country skiing, hiking, painting, 8×10 photography, and cowboy poetry; theater, symphony orchestras, folk music, jazz, and contemporary pop; and he relished a good discussion.
One of Gibbs’ dreams was to create a retreat for writers in Utah’s redrock country. The Mesa, which is the fulfillment of this dream, is currently under construction near Zion National Park.
A gathering to celebrate Gibbs’ life will take place Friday, November 3, from 6 to 8 at the new house, 575 Artists Way, Layton; short comments or thoughts are welcome. Funeral service Saturday, November 4, at 2:00 at the LDS meetinghouse on the corner of 200 North and Flint Street, Kaysville. Interment in Kaysville City Cemetery.
Gibbs is survived by his wife, Catherine; daughter and son-in-law Jordan and Troy Johnson and grandchildren Kaitlin and Kai, Logan; sister and brother-in-law ShruDeLi and Ray Ownbey, Salt Lake City, and nephew Micah (Casey) Ownbey, Portland, Maine. He was preceded in death by his parents, George Gibbs Wright and Iola Heiselt Smith.
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