Remembering Tom McGibeny

| January 9, 2023 | 0 Comments

One of Mission Hills’s biggest fans and residents was Tom McGibeny.  Born in 1942, Tom was raised as an Air Force “brat” and moved frequently during his youth, including six times while in high school.  While attending Arizona State in 1966 he was drafted into the Army and sent to Viet Nam. It was during that time when he met his second wife, Ginny Ollis.  Ginny was living in New York City and followed the suggestion of a radio announcer, who asked his audience to write to a Viet Nam soldier in care of the USO.  Ginny sent a letter and a couple of weeks later Tom plucked it from a box outside the base prior to being sent to the front.  That was the start of a pen pal relationship. 

They corresponded for 12 months before his release.  Tom was recruited from the front to write for “Stars and Stripes,” a military publication. However, after a month Tom asked to be returned to active duty with his company.  He always said the “Stars and Stripes” sent him to the front with a pen while his company men were armed with guns.  He was one of five survivors of his original company. When he and Ginny attended a reunion in the 1990s, the men who were present raved about Tom “having their back” and his keen sense of humor, which kept them going during those intense days.  This was one of Tom’s many qualities.

When Tom came home from Viet Nam, he spent a little time in the brig. It was due to a harmless celebratory prank. Upon his return to the states, he “borrowed” the general’s jeep and took a joy ride. This little escapade delayed his planned in-person meeting with Ginny. 

Their first meeting took place in New York City and extended for two weeks. He departed in his new 1967 Mustang and drove to Phoenix, Arizona to reconnect with his family.  Ginny visited over Christmas and moved from her Manhattan apartment to Phoenix in March 1968. 

Tom returned to school and worked as a lifeguard at the first land-built surfing center located in Scottsdale.  During that time Tom also worked for the college catering company, which became a career that led him to become the manager of two hospital kitchens in Michigan before moving to San Diego. 

While Tom was living in Phoenix, he saw Ginny frequently but married Diane, the mother of his first child, Sean. They were together, living in Tennessee, Florida, and Michigan, until Sean died of cancer at age 17. They had a second son who now works and lives with his family in Jacksonville, Fl. 

Tom, like others, had returned from Viet Nam with severe PTSD and was in counseling for years.  After his older son had passed, Tom fought some personal devils and he and Diane divorced.  Tom’s sister told Ginny of his life challenges, which prompted her to write another letter.

He answered a year later when he found the letter in a pocket. Following more correspondence, a joyous reunion took place between Tom and Ginny. He eventually moved to Mission Hills to join Ginny. 

The San Diego V.A. was a marvelous resource.  The organization provided Tom with a PTSD counselor and his first San Diego job working at Fort Rosecrans cemetery. Tom loved working among the beautiful bay and coast views, while watching eagles flying overhead.

Ginny had become a very engaged realtor and devoted member of the Mission Hills community. Tom chose to get his real estate license and join her.  He worked with Ginny for many years, and truly found his forever home. 

He worked with the Little League and attended AA meetings with community members whose names he never disclosed. He took monthly walks to distribute newsletters to every door in North Mission Hills. He worked diligently on the bi-annual “yard sales” he and Ginny ran for the community.  Tom put flags on every yard every 4th of July. He made real friends with clients and was determined never to leave this place he called his “real home.” 

When Tom passed this past October, Ginny learned that he had known of his terminal cancer for two years but chose to protect her by keeping it to himself. 

Tom McGibeney was a Mission Hills resident and realtor.

Tom was a man who bonded with many people because of his sense of humor, good natured personality, and goodwill.  Tom McGibeny will definitely be missed by many from the Mission Hills community he called home.

Tags: ,

Category: Business, feature, Local News, Real Estate

About the Author ()

General articles by the Presidio Sentinel and Associated Partners.