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SC Rewind: Bud Gibson Remembered

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Published: September 26, 2009 10:10 am ET

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Robert Smith recalls the lengthy career of the late Garnet "Bud" Gibson who recently passed away.

I am reluctant to say he was Canada's oldest living horseman at the time of his passing but to quote an old horse term he was certainly a "pretty good bet" for the honour. On September 15, nearly 96 year old Garnet Gibson's seemingly endless affiliation with the sport came to an end. Just one week after suffering a severe stroke he passed away at The Leamington Memorial Hospital.

"Bud" as he was know to everyone was literally born into a horse environment. The Gibson's Camden Township farm near Dresden where he was born was right next door to the McFaddens, a name synonymous with Ontario harness racing's roots. He and "Jiggs" McFadden were cousins. Thus began a life long affiliation that has endured for most of a century. He first began driving in the 1930's, exactly when and where unfortunately we never discussed. Some of his early successes came at Michigan's Northville Downs as night racing began to prosper.

Eventually Bud's travels took him to the nearby town of Wallaceburg and his racing career was centered at the fabled Saints Park a privately owned track located in the "Burg" as he always called it. For many years he worked with and for the Saint family, Tom and his son Fred. While here he met and married his wife the former Beatrice Brodeur. They raised four children, three daughters Joan, Shirley, Marilyn (deceased) and a son Gary.

Another life long affiliation also began at this time and that was with area horseman "Smiling Fred" Goudreau who lived a block away from the town oval; his uncle Joe worked for the Saint family. Gibson the "teacher" served as Fred's mentor and in 1954 they brought out a good homebred two year old by the name of Floating Rhythm, raised by Goudreau and later sold. With Bud driving, the daughter of Jimmy Chief had a successful freshman campaign that launched Goudreau's racing career. He of course is well remembered in later years as he and his son Shelly campaigned many top horses prior to Shelly's tragic death in California.

Bud was a very quiet man, unlike many of his contemporaries he was often more content to listen to an old tale than to tell it. His approach to life and to the sport of harness racing was always accomplished in a conservative,calm and cautious way. Bud made his name and his living not by being flashy or outgoing ; he rather chose to do his work in a quiet way. You might say he was one to "Travel at his own chosen speed". His training requests often involved working with problem horses which he improved and turned over to others. His rewards came not by being in the headlines, but by having the personal satisfaction of a job well done. He was a man who smiled often and laughed easily but normally offered his opinion only when asked. I had the personal pleasure of many visits with him and enjoyed his rather shy nature as he told his tales of bygone days. He retained a keen memory and excellent eyesight well into his 90's. Show him an old photograph and surely a story would follow .....

Nearly 50 years ago the Gibsons moved to an Essex County farm near the famed Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary at Kingsville. A long partnership with farm owner W.F. Deane of Detroit followed and continued until Mr. Deane's passing. Bud and his wife then moved to the track in Leamington where he trained for many years. Mrs. Gibson who loved to attend the races, to watch and cheer on their horses, and "place the odd wager", passed away in 1987. They were a close couple.

As the years passed by Bud was blessed with good health and a continuing love for the sport. Thanks to the care and support of a long time caretaker from the local Reg Mullholland stable named Jenny Lawson, he was able to remain living at his own home at the Leamington fairgrounds until his passing. Jenny looked in on him daily and also took him to a nearby restaurant where they shared a meal, the latest news and their friendship for many years.

One of the first tasks any young person entering the horse business learns is how to feed a horse. When young Mr. Gibson first performed that chore is unknown, but it is known that he fed three horses on the morning he fell ill. Just a month short of his 96th birthday; that is an amazing feat and a testament to how much he loved horses. Imagine all those years of doing what he loved and loving what he was doing.

Now it is someone else's turn to do the feeding ....


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