Low Down Articles

How I Got Here

Article 4 of 14     

This article first appeared in the "How I got here" column in the November 07, 2018 issue of the "The Low Down to Hull and Back News". Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Pair found beating heart in Wakefield

By Phil Jenkins

Returning to Toronto after a business trip to Ottawa, Bob Gibson first perceived the Gatineau Hills as the scent of spring, wafting from the purple hills barely visible from the Ottawa airport runway. He didn't know it then, but one day he would be living in those hills, on the shore of the river, in an old farmstead.

Bob and Brooke Gibson in front of their home south of Wakefield on Riverside Drive. Phil Jenkins photo.

Bob's journey to the riverbank began in Toronto, where he was born just before Pearl Harbor. (No connection, he says.) His father relocated frequently, working for a spell in New York during the 'Mad Men' era, leaving Bob and his siblings to grow up in a Connecticut suburb. At eighteen, Bob moved to Montreal and earned an arts degree at McGill. It was there he met his future wife, Brooke, while they were working summer jobs at the Manoir Richelieu. After graduation, destiny and hormones took him back to Toronto where Brooke was finishing her degree at the Ontario College of Art, and where he found work teaching high school English. After a brief spell in publishing, he found a way to make a self-employed living creating microfiche services for libraries. (Note to younger readers: microfiche is - oh, never mind.) As the computer tsunami washed over every aspect of life, Bob's business regularly reinvented itself until it found permanence online.

When their three children left the nest, he and Brooke were able to move to a rented cottage on Toronto Island, where they spent 10 happy years, visiting the kids scattered around the country, all the while scoping out a post-retirement landing site that met their '3B' criteria: bakery, bibliotheque, and beer. A chance Christmas rental on Burnside brought the pair to Wakefield - another 'B'. Bob also credits the Low Down as the deciding factor, because it gave the two Bs, Bob and Brooke, a portrait of the community, a sense of the beating heart of it. Here was a place where they could learn to fit in quickly and comfortably. So in 2003, they voted themselves off Toronto Island and moved to Low Down country, to a rental on Hillcrest.

South of Wakefield there is a fine old property on Riverside Drive, with a scattering of barns and stables and an ice house. In 2010, it was offered for sale by the indefatigable Phil and Glennis Cohen, a couple who are a still-beating part of the village's heart, with the condition that the successful bidder would be the party who met the price and topped it with a donation to the fundraising campaign of the embryonic Centre Wakefield La Pêche. The Gibsons were the lucky winners, and they, too, have made their mark on village culture. Literally, in Bob's case - as part of a Wakefest project, he fashioned two small feet, dipped them in white paint, and walked them along the railway tracks. And his involvement in projects such as Earth Day and the building of the wonderfully crafted barn at Fairbairn House have ensured that Toronto's loss is, once again, our gain.