DAVIDSON, North Carolina — Melissa Gibbs stood before 1,200 people who came to celebrate the life of her husband, J.D. Gibbs, and focused on her four sons sitting in the front row.
Looking at Jackson, Miller, Jason and Taylor, she told them: “Nothing you achieve in life will impress me more than the way you cared for your dad. Even in his decline and in his passing, dad was still teaching you guys, long past the point he had anything to give. His life was shaping yours. You are men of character and make me incredibly proud.”
She paused, her voice softening with those final words.
Family and faith were pillars of J.D. Gibbs’ life and they were shared throughout an emotional service Friday that was held in a college basketball arena and attended by former Washington Redskins and those who worked with and competed against Gibbs’ teams in NASCAR.
Gibbs, co-founder and co-chairman of Joe Gibbs Racing, died Jan. 11 from complications following a long battle with a degenerative neurological disease. He was 49.
Tears and laughter punctuated the service, which lasted close to 90 minutes.
Sniffles interrupted Joe Gibbs’ prayer as he spoke of his son. Jackson read entries of his dad’s journal through tears.
Then, there were the stories of J.D. Gibbs’ goofiness. Long-time friend Moose Valliere recalled the wild times he and J.D. had as kids – they’d stay up late, play video games, and make an occasional crank call.
“Clean ones,” Valliere quickly noted to laughs, while looking at J.D.’s parents, Joe and Pat Gibbs.
“That was raising cain for J.D.,” Valliere said. “But we had a blast.”
Valliere also shared how Gibbs influenced his life and helped him with his faith from saying a prayer before every meal to “walk the walk” and value “Godly friendship.”
Melissa also used the service to remind those of the power of faith.
“You are here because his life mattered to you in someway,” Melissa told the crowd at Davidson College’s Belk Arena. “And I am standing before you to make sure his death does as well.
“I don’t intend to waste a bit of his suffering. It had meaning and value. Not that I wouldn’t take a time machine and a miracle cure to get back. But he’s gone and his struggle is over. Better than that, he is with God.”
Dave Alpern, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, also shared how his faith had been shaped by his long-time close friend, along with all the fun times they had together through the years.
He ended his time on the stage by addressing J.D. Gibbs’ four sons.
“You’re dad’s nickname was ‘Son of’ “ Alpern said, noting J.D. Gibbs was the son of a Hall of Fame NFL coach. “Today, we pass the title of ‘Son of’ to you. Consider it a great honor to be considered the son of J.D. Gibbs.”