Olga Greta Gibson was born in Conecuh County, Alabama in the town of Evergreen on March 9, 1931. She was the eleventh of 12 children born to the union of James Bush Walker and Gelean Thomas. James provided for his large family as a sharecropper and Gelean maintained the home and cared for the children. Gelean succumbed to complications from the twelfth birth, as did the child. So at two years of age, Greta, now the baby, and her sister, Omega were sent to Jacksonville, Florida where they were raised by maternal aunt, Gussie “Jack” and her husband, Durell Clark.
She grew up on Monroe Street and worshipped at Ebenezer United Methodist Church. She attended segregated public schools, graduating with honors in 1949 from one of the few schools providing secondary education for the African American community at the time, Stanton High School. Though she was gifted academically, college was not an option. She decided to enlist in the US Army as a member of the former Women’s Army Corps (WAC) where she served her country for three years and was honorably discharged in 1953.
Her marriage in 1952 to Franz Gibson produced two children, Leslie and Jeffrey. Greta would continue to serve her country as a civil servant throughout her employment years working at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, the WIC Program, the IRS, and finally retiring from the USPS Cincinnati Bulk Mail Center.
She had a lifelong passion for singing and was a member of several African American choral groups, including the renowned Baroque Choral Ensemble under the direction of Dr. Richard Bush. But it was her 25+ years devotion to the Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, MUSE that was unparalleled. There, she found sisterhood, purpose and great joy amongst a group which embraced diversity of all kinds years before it became popular to do so.
She was an excellent cook and baker and was known for her bread pudding, zucchini bread and divinity candy which she gifted to many at Christmastime. She had a fierce independent spirit which served her well in achieving a level of self-reliance not easily attained for a single black woman of her generation. She was able to celebrate her 90th birthday this year on Zoom with, among others, her cherished lifelong childhood friend, Priscilla Brown and decades long Army buddy, Janis Smith.
She leaves behind to cherish her memories: daughter, Leslie and son-in-law, Jeffrey Archie; son, Jeffrey Gibson; grandchildren, Camille Archie, Bryant Archie and Dr. Briana Gibson; “favorite” niece, Angel (Kimberly) Walker; and a host of devoted friends and family. She will be missed by her Walker-Thomas family, her church family at Allen Temple A.M.E. Church and her singing family at MUSE.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in her memory to the Alzheimer’s Association or the Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, MUSE.