Steven Gibb pursued painting and photography after a second chance at life

Steven Gibb: Photographer. Painter. Newspaper. Single father. Born April 2, 1948 in Brooks, Alta .; died August 3, 2021 in Saskatoon of an unknown cardiovascular event; 73 years.

Steven GibbCourtesy of the family

Steve grew up on the dusty edge of Rosemary, Alta. The youngest of six children, he lost his father when he was 11 years old. His mother, Nella, managed a meager living by selling eggs from their farm where they had no indoor plumbing.

When Steve was 7, he and his two brothers hurled a rope over the barn’s hay pulley like a poor man’s elevator. Two boys jumped from the hayloft, while the third got the turn of his life – two floors up from the barn floor. That is, until the rope broke and Steve crushed his arm.

Steve had even less success in school. His principal took him aside and said, “Listen Gibb. You have one of the highest IQs in school, and you have to get out of here and start working.”

Steve realized that maybe there was more out there for him. He decided to study journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary.

As an artist at heart, Steve began his newspaper career as a photographer, first in Swift Current, Sask., Then Cambridge, Ont. At Saskatoon StarPhoenix, he eventually became the newspaper’s longest-serving editor-in-chief. He led with humor, grace and righteousness. When new owners cracked down on opinions, he fought for his writers. He deeply cared about his team, his readers, and the integrity of his newsroom.

Steve dreamed of writing comedy late at night, but as a single father with two young children, he settled for dry and often striped one-liners and other creative pursuits: writing humor; a weekly newspaper cartoon; and invents board games for his children, Sheila and Brian.

At home, breakfast was eaten over the newspaper, and Blue Jays games were the summer soundtrack. Steve made bananas and fruit sludge at all times and had an ability to pick the sweetest and juiciest watermelons.

He loved to take Sheila and Brian on a hike in the bad lands near where he grew up, to look for dinosaur fossils. He wanted to park on the side of the highway and down the steep slopes, and often he stopped to get the perfect picture at the edge of an eroding rock, leaving his children afraid that they might have to hike out alone.

Steve traveled with his children and took them to national newspaper conferences. He dragged them to countless art galleries, bored them to tears, but instilled a lifelong love of art.

Steve had diabetes and stroke at a young age, but that did not define him (nor his ice habit). In his youth he rode motocross. He skied and played hockey, fastball and tennis. He also ran and came through prairie winters on the indoor track.

21 years ago, during such a run, Steve suffered a massive cardiac arrest and was held on life support so his children could say goodbye. He almost gave his ICU nurse his own heart event when he suddenly started communicating. Steve wondered about the random events that helped him cope with death: The track staff had just been retrained on the defibrillator; the defibrillator was nearby for a cardiac rehabilitation class; a top cardiologist ran next to him.

After that, it felt a bit like Steve was on borrowed time. He got the best out of it and taught himself to paint. His colorful bison and bears in prairie landscapes were popular, and he sold many pieces across Canada.

After retirement, Steve was rarely without his beloved dogs and his camera. He photographed local historic buildings to inspire their preservation. He could capture beauty in a grasshopper.

Steve considered himself a “shy and quiet type of guy.” He bore difficulties stoically and privately. Most recently, Steve was a devoted caregiver for his second wife, whom he married later in life and who suffered from severe long-term illness. He did not complain or accept offers of help. He was a gentle soul, a calming influence and, as his 10-year-old grandson said during his last visit, “a cool guy.”

Sheila Gibb is Steve’s daughter.

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Lives Lived celebrates the mundane, extraordinary, unpredictable life of Canadians who have recently passed away. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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