“Bob Giebitz passionately loved the Helderbergs,” his family wrote in a tribute. “Even though he was born in New Jersey and lived many years in New Mexico, Alabama, Tennessee, and Illinois, his heart was always back home in these beloved mountains.
“He spent many happy years here and chose to come home when he realized his work in this life was done and he was on his final journey. Although his last residence was in Troy, his sunroom had a view of the Helderbergs which always called to his heart. Bob passed away peacefully on July 1, 2023, just six days shy of his 99th birthday.
“Bob was born in Garfield, New Jersey, on July 7, 1924, to Paul and Margaret Schuller Giebitz and spent his formative years on a small dairy farm in South Berne. He graduated from Berne-Knox High School in 1942.
“After two years in Newfoundland during World War II as a weatherman in the Army Air Corps, Bob studied agriculture at Cornell University, receiving his bachelor of science degree in agricultural science in 1951. He spent several years as a county agricultural agent on Long Island in Suffolk County, New York.
“He soon became a life insurance agent and spent the rest of his long career helping farm families keep their farms through the medium of life insurance.
“Bob was also an accomplished musician, a marvelous storyteller, and a more-than-amateur geologist, frequently lecturing on the geography of wherever he resided. Bob was a nearly lifelong Kiwanian in service to his community.
“Bob married Anne Ferguson in 1948 and had four children: Margaret, William, Robert, and Martha. His daughter Paula was born of his third marriage. In 1980, Bob married Marjorie Bacon, originally from Gloversville, New York, and acquired four wonderful stepchildren: Cynthia, Linda, Robert, and Mark.
“Bob said goodbye to the love of his life, his beloved wife, Marge, in 2016. They had journeyed together for 35 years. After leaving their farm in Portales, New Mexico, they spent two years roaming the country in their RV, consulting Roadside Geology volumes for each state (Bob had the entire set), looking for just the right soil. Bob could look at the soil and, at a glance, tell you what it could grow, and also tell the story of how it was formed throughout its geologic and biologic history.
“Bob found his ideal soil in Crossville, Tennessee. He tilled that soil for many years. When Marge’s health began to fail, they moved to Rushville, Illinois to be with Marge’s daughter, Linda. After Marge’s passing, Bob returned to the Helderbergs.
“As long as he was able, he gave geology talks for Kiwanis and served as a guide at Thacher Park. He loved discovering and exploring caves in the limestone formations in Upstate New York, always seeming to know just where a cave should be located, much to the amazement of his young children.
“Everywhere he lived, Bob planted a garden. As his children were growing up, the family moved every two or three years. At each house, Bob planted a garden for the family. His Portales farm had a huge vegetable garden and a small orchard. In Crossville, besides his own gardens, he raised thousands of heirloom tomato seedlings, which he sold at the local farmers’ market.
“He also developed small gardens for the children of their church to learn how plants grow, and in Rushville, Bob started a community garden. When Bob moved to a senior community in Delmar, New York, and couldn’t bend down to dig his fingers in the dirt anymore, the facility built raised beds three feet off the ground so he could still plant his tomatoes and share his love of gardening with the other residents.
“The other love of Bob’s life was music. As a teenager, he taught himself to play the saxophone. He spoke often of his time in the Army where he was recruited at a moment’s notice to fill in for a sick band member at the local dance hall. Command staff later issued orders that he was to play in the band every Saturday night for the remainder of his tour.
“As a civilian, he was in several musical groups over the years. In Portales he would join his fellow musicians at the local Dairy Queen on Fridays. He also played with the “Has-Beens” in Crossville. Bob played and sang by ear, never having learned to read music.
“He sang beautiful baritone harmony to hymns in church and to old-time songs wherever he found himself. He passed on his musical gene to three of his children who became professional or semi-professional musicians. Family gatherings were always full of music.
“Bob will be remembered with dirt sifting through his fingers, a twinkle in his eye, and a song in his heart.”
Robert John Giebitz is survived by his nine children, 26 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren; his sister, Carol McQuate; his brother, Richard Giebitz, and many nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews.
“His nieces Susan Giebitz Shafer and Pamala McQuate spent many an hour caring for him after he moved home,” his family wrote. “The family also lovingly acknowledges the almost daily care that Barbara Kennedy provided in the last year of his life.”
His wife, Marge, died before him, as did his parents, Paul and Margaret Giebitz, and his brother, Paul Giebitz.
A memorial service will be held at the Helderberg Evangelical Lutheran Church in Berne on Saturday, Aug. 12. Visitation is at 10 a.m., the service is at 11 a.m. with a reception to follow at the church. His ashes and the ashes of his wife, Marge, will be interred in the South Berne Rural Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Helderberg Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1728 Helderberg Trail, Berne, NY 12023.