William Jackson (“Jack”) Bibb, Sr. was resting next to his wife, Nancy and tightly holding his daughter, Amy’s hand when he passed away peacefully in his home on March 10, 2021, after a long battle with dementia. His last few days were filled with family, the words of Robert Frost, the Marine Corps hymn, and tearful stories of his home in Portola, which his beloved children, Amy and Jack recounted for their sleeping father long into the early morning hours.
Jack was born in the humble town of Sweetwater, Texas on August 29, 1932, to Eunice Lenora (née Zachary) Bibb and John Wells Bibb. His boyhood was filled with adventures he and his two older brothers, John Wells Bibb Jr., and Thomas Zachary Bibb, concocted. While both John and Thomas preceded Jack in death, their youngest sister, Sue (née Bibb) Powell lives with her husband Darrell “Red” in Quincy, California.
Jack’s early life was spent on the road following his father’s Western Union job transfers, moving from Sweetwater, Texas, to Pueblo, Colorado, and finally to Sacramento, California. It was during these years that gave Jack the deep appreciation for taking the time to get to know a person and their story. After graduating from San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, Jack was awarded a scholarship through the United States Navy to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Jack‘s respect for the Armed Forces was inspired by the example his two older brothers set, both of whom served this country in World War II. It was at Cal Berkeley where Jack’s love for literature took flight. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. Upon leaving Cal Berkeley he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps
In 1954, in Fredericksburg, Virginia Jack met the woman, whom, in his words, “I didn’t want to live without.” Jack fell in love with Nancy Louise Gifford during a warm Fredericksburg evening in 1954. In three months, they were married. While serving in the United States Marine Corps, Jack traveled the world while on active and reserve duty. His duty to God and country earned him the retiring rank of Captain in 1957 before he began to pursue what would become his life’s calling and arguably his greatest love: Teaching. A master’s degree from the University of Nevada, Reno would follow a few years later.
For nearly four decades, Jack proudly taught as a high school English teacher in Portola, California – a mountain town tucked in the Sierra Nevada. His commitment to the excellence of teaching and to the success of each student he encountered was such a hallmark of his career at Portola Jr., Sr. High School (PHS), the school will soon bear his name on the campus library.
In addition to teaching, Jack was a school counselor, coached freshman basketball, directed many musical theatre productions alongside his good friend and fellow teacher John Larrieu , and for many years was “The Voice Of The Tigers” announcing home football games. During the summer, he protected the mountains he called home, serving in the United States Forest Service and in the winter on the weekends he taught young people how to ski those very same hills.
When Jack realized he was teaching the grandchildren of his first students, he knew it was time to retire – and so he did, in 1994. After retirement, he worked with Holy Family Catholic Church in Portola doing various projects – wherever he was needed, he stepped in, including helping to build the church’s activity center. That is the way Jack lived his life, in service of others. He deeply loved his Portola community. He positively affected the lives of thousands of people, many of whom, upon learning of his passing, shared their beloved memories of their teacher, Mr. Bibb, with his wife and children. Each person took the time to express just how much he meant to them and the community.
Jack is survived by his wife, Nancy, his children Lenora (Bibb) Campos, Jack Bibb Jr. and his wife Marilyn, and Amy (Bibb) Lewis and her husband Stuart, as well as by his grandchildren Lucas, Kaitlin, Emilianne, Analiese, Zachary, and Jacob, and by his great-grandchildren, Logan and Brynn. His larger family consisted of the students who visited him countless times after they graduated to thank him for taking the time to make them feel that they mattered. Because they did.
Jack will be deeply missed by his family and long remembered by the community he loved so much.
There will be a memorial for Mr. Bibb on August 29, 2021 at PHS. If you were a student of his, a coworker, or spent any quality time with him, please join us. Additional information regarding the memorial will be available in the Portola Reporter and the PHS Facebook pages in the coming days.