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WWII vet Gibson works for free at local truck repair shop
Roswell Daily Record - 12/24/2017
Not many people can say they moved to New Mexico cross country in a Ford Model T, but 92-year-old Roswell resident Mauro Gibson can claim he went through such a bone-rattling experience.
"My dad brought me to Clovis in a Model T in 1928," said Gibson, a World War II Navy veteran. "My grandfather lived there and was a doctor."
Gibson said that when he was 3 years old, his father grew tired of living in Lynn, Massachusetts, so they hit the road.
For the past 17 years, Gibson has worked about six hours a day at Lewis Truck & 4X4 on West Second Street just west of the Relief Route.
Gibson works for free, except for his boss, Mark Lewis, taking him out for lunch and giving him a reserved parking spot on the east side of the shop that says "Gibson Parking Only," where Gibson parks his late-model Ford F-150.
Lewis also pays for Gibson's phone bill.
Gibson has been a friend of the the Lewis family for decades. The business was passed down to Lewis by his father, Don.
"He's like a member of the family. He goes on family vacations with us," Lewis said. "He helps me everyday."
Gibson dresses in coveralls everyday, and on his 90th birthday, the entire Lewis family dressed in coveralls to recognize their beloved friend.
Gibson doesn't do much mechanical work at the shop. Instead, he is a general helper and drives customers home.
"He welds everyday and will do anything asked," Lewis said. "He does his best."
According to Lewis, Gibson is a bit of a marvel of medical science.
"He doesn't take a ton of pills everyday," Lewis said.
Gibson broke his neck a few years back in a roll-over accident that wasn't his fault.
Amazingly, Gibson's neck healed in four months, Lewis said.
When Gibson broke his hip, once again he was back in action in only four months.
"He heals like a 40-year-old," Lewis said. "If you tell him to do 10 exercises, he will do 20."
Gibson does have a caretaker, who Lewis quipped also is his girlfriend.
Gibson loves to hunt, but says his "old shoulder" can't handle a shotgun anymore. He still shoots with a rifle.
Gibson's wife died in 2002 and his son died in 2011. He has two daughters, one in California and another in Texas.
After living in Clovis, Gibson moved to Texas when he was 13 and then in 1940 moved to Fort Sumner.
He served in the U.S. Navy from 1942-46, which you could say was the second half of World War II.
He did hospital duty as a medical corps pharmacist in Mare Island, California.
From sunny California, he was shipped overseas to Australia.
"We were sent up the coast to Melbourne and Brisbane and then Windy Island," Gibson said.
His ship, the USS Half Moon, received more and more casualties as war in the Pacific accelerated.
The Half Moon was a "tender vessel," which in maritime parlance means a ship that is used to support the operation of other vessels.
The Half Moon had a "fantail," which was an extension of the main deck where sea planes and smaller vessels could be lifted onto the ship.
Gibson said he and his crew mates made several rescues.
"People here today wouldn't be here if not for us," he said.
One day they were attacked by a Japanese Zero, the same carrier fighters that attacked Pearl Harbor.
"A Japanese Zero (Mitsubishi A6M) tried to shoot us and a P-38 shot him out of the sky," Gibson said. "The pilot parachuted out but refused to take a lifeline. It wasn't until we shot him in the butt that he decided to take a lifeline. We took him out of the water and interrogated him."
The Lockheed P-38 Lightning was a World War II-era American fighter aircraft. The P-38 had distinctive twin booms and a central nacelle containing the cockpit and armament.
"We always had P-38s covering us," Gibson said.
When Gibson got out of the Navy, he moved back to Fort Sumner and was encouraged by relatives to stay in the medical field. However, Gibson said he wanted to work with his hands.
In 1949, he moved to Roswell to work as a civilian iron worker at Walker Air Force Base.
After that, he supervised a fleet of vehicles at the Glover Packing Co. on Garden Avenue.
"They had a pretty good fleet of cars and trucks that hauled equipment," Gibson said.
He worked there from 1962 to 1981, and was the "last one out the door" when the company closed due to bankruptcy.
A soft-spoken man, Gibson summarized his life in one short sentence: "I've learned about life in 92 years."
Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or firstname.lastname@example.org.