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Museum Christmas Open House held Sunday

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Former Greeley County resident Bob Gibson presented the program at the Museum Christmas Open House on Sunday.

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Former Greeley County resident Bob Gibson presented the program at the Museum Christmas Open House on Sunday.

The Greeley County Historical Society hosted a Christmas Open House at the Horace Greeley Museum Sunday afternoon, December 10th. The featured speaker was Bob Gibson. In addition, Cecile Shepherd provided musical entertainment and refreshments were served. Curator Nadine Cheney said, “Thank You Bob for the Presentation of Memories of past Christmases and the Christmas now, frantic shopping and the difference in the gifts received now.  Usually only one gift per person was received during the tough times and family struggles. “The ‘ugly’ box was special for classmates, and one for ‘where is Mr. Epp?’ Sure enough, Bob left an ‘ugly’ box gift for Mr. Epp. “Each of those attending were presented with a card stating The Reason For The Season--Santa or Jesus this is ceartainly ‘food for thought.’  Another highlight was the small brown bags with hard candy and the dome shaped chocolates, peanuts and walnuts for each of us.  This certainly was tradition years ago.  And OH! how we cherished those little brown bags, sometimes they contained and orange so we were really in “pay dirt” then. “Bob is proud of a grandson, whom is an air force pilot, and also paid tribute to some of those killed in World War II from Greeley County.” Speaker Bob Gibson sent the following story and comments: “Willie Remembered” I remember him from the start, from the early days when we were both just starting high school. He was a year older, a sophomore, bigger than most of us, quiet, casual and friendly. We freshmen soon learned that he was safe to be around, something that was not true with several of the other older, bigger guys. Some just loved to “whack” you on the shoulder, try to make you flinch, which if you did, entitled them to whack you again. Mostly we freshmen dreaded seeing the “whackers” coming. Not so with “Willie.” You could relax around him. He soon became a favorite…he could be trusted. He was to become one of the better athletes, though you would never know it just being around him. Willie was not one to show-off. When he was a senior in 1950-51, he played fullback and he made both halfbacks better players. We only won the last two games of the season but it wasn’t his fault. In basketball we were much better. He was what I like to call, “a soldier!” A workhorse on the boards, he demonstrated the importance or rebounding …a lesson I was to benefit from both as a player and a coach. But the thing I remember the most about Willie was his kindness. The ultimate example came after we had both graduated and I had gone off to college. It soon became apparent that I would need transportation if I was to get around in the big city. Available at a local dealer was a 1935 Ford sedan, great condition, low miles…and cheap. It had belonged to our math teacher, Blanche Smith, and she had taken very good care of it. So I became it’s owner. It did have some drawbacks…like the mechanical brakes, and the gas gage was not very reliable…something I was to learn the hard way. I was on my way home for the weekend about half way between Scott City and Leoti when we ran out of gas. My girl friend was with me and here we were, stranded! This vehicle came roaring past, jammed on the breaks and came to a screeching halt. Backing up, it stopped right beside us. It was Willie. He had recognized the car. So he loaded us up, hauled us to my parents house in Horace, showed up the next day, hauled us back, put gas in the car, got us started, would take nothing for it, and disappeared down the road home. That was the early fifties and I don’t recall seeing Willie again although I always looked for him at reunions. Years later I learned that he had a daughter who lived only a few blocks from where I now live. Every time I passed the corner where I thought she lived, I would check the car tags. Never saw one from Greeley County, though. Last Sunday, at the Greeley County Historical Societies Christmas Open House, I finally got to meet Willie again. I had no idea that the man setting in the back row was he…until after the meeting. I really regret that as I wanted to tell his story. He said he was prompted to come because in the local paper the week before I had asked, “for the fullback on the 1951 football team to come.” He told me, “I was that fullback,” …not the guy I had identified at the meeting. I hope we both got a laugh out of the fact that he was the fullback on the 1950 team, having graduated in 51. In this day and age, when commercialism has shrouded the true meaning of Christmas, I wanted to share Willies story, not just the “gasoline rescue,” but his story of being the kind of man (and boy) who exudes the true spirit of Christmas. The kind of man who views kindness as just the way people are meant to be treated…and respected. Anyway, “Willie,” (his real name is William Byerly) I thank you for coming last week. And I thank you for being that positive role model that makes Western Kansas people so special. I valued you as a friend and I regret that time and distance have intervened. God Bless you and yours, Bobby Gibson PS: And a big THANK YOU to all the others who came, who make coming back home so special. (three husky Steeles, who helped me load out; there were two Byerlys; Bloesser, Kleymann, Cheney, Waldren, Hoffman, Mai, Houston, Shepherd, Ostatt, and those lurking in the hall) Remember the real reason for Christmas: >Santa brings you gifts to go under your tree; >Jesus became your gift and died on a tree! JESUS IS THE REAL TRUTH ABOUT CHRISTMAS.
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