Col William “Hoot” Gibson (USAF Ret) passed away Saturday, Jan 24th, 2015 in Denver, Colorado after a long and courageous fight against cancer. A native of El Paso Texas, he was born to Earl and Fannie Mae Gibson on April 4th, 1931. He attended the University of Texas at El Paso and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1953. He entered the Air Force through the Aviation Cadet program and received his pilot’s wings in 1955.
As a command fighter pilot, he flew the F-84 E/F/G, F-86, F-100 D/F, RF-101C, RF-4/C and F-4 D/E aircraft throughout his Air Force career. With over 4,400 total and 600 combat flight hours, he remained certified as mission-ready until his 50th birthday. Col Gibson also holds the flight record for the longest combat sortie over hostile North Vietnam, piloting his RF-4 Phantom aircraft on a mission that lasted 7 ½ hours. He served multiple tours in Vietnam including participation in Operations Pipe Stem and Able Mable flying the RF-101 from 1962 to 1963 and again from 1967 to 1969 flying the RF-4C.
Hoot was also was the Lead formation pilot on the Aerial Demonstrations performed for the countries of Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, India and Spain in 1969. Col Gibson served in the communities of Tactical Fighter Operations as well as all aspects of Tactical Reconnaissance. He served command tours as the Vice Commander of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey (1975), Commander 40th Tactical Group Aviano Air Base, Italy (1976-1978) and as the Wing Commander of the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Zwiebruken Air Base Germany (1978-1980).
His decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star, Air Medal with 14 Oak Leaf Clusters, Presidential Unit Citation, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Air War College Distinguished Graduate, and a host of other awards and decorations. He retired in 1985 after honorably serving his country in a distinguished 31-year career in the United States Air Force.
After retiring from the USAF, Hoot continued to support and provide technical assistance to the Department of Defense as Program Manager joint weapons systems tests. Additionally, Hoot was actively involved in the community of Angel Fire, NM and a major driver behind the successes the village has enjoyed over the years. He served on the Village Council as Mayor Pro-tem and later on as the Commissioner on the Village Planning and Zoning Committee.
He was also very involved for many years with the New Mexico Vietnam War Memorial State Park and National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center, and the Wounded Warrior Project. He was one of the founders of the Center’s retreat program conducted every year in Angel Fire, NM for veterans and returning war-fighters who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Hoot remained very active in the outdoors of Angel Fire, NM where he lived until just recently, regularly enjoying snow skiing, golf and fishing with his many close family and friends.
He was also a member of the SAIC Ski Team and regularly competed in the annual Corporate Cup downhill races.
He was preceded in death by his parents Earl and Fanny Mae Gibson; brother Edward Gibson, his daughter Julie and son Clay. He is survived by his lovely wife June of over 40 years; sister Eleanor Rix and husband Don of El Paso, Texas; 4 children; son, Mark Gibson of Rio Rico, Arizona; son, Brock Gibson and wife Diana of White Salmon, Washington; daughter, Cheryl Cunningham and husband Joe of Friona, Texas; and son, Thad Gibson and wife Martha of Parker, Colorado; as well as many grandchildren and great grandchildren. A true American hero and family man, who is loved by so many, admired and respected by all. Leaving this world a much better place because of his many contributions, he will be deeply missed by those who enjoyed the privilege of knowing him, but at the same time, comforted with knowledge that his incredible legacy will live on in the lives of those he touched in so many ways.