Obituary: Clyde R. “Buzz” Gibb
December 9, 1923 – December 12, 2021
JUPITER ISLAND, FL — Clyde R. “Buzz” Gibb of Jupiter Island, Florida, passed away peacefully in his home on Sunday, Dec. 12, surrounded by his loving family and dear friends. He was 98.
Born in Oakland, CA, on December 9, 1923, to the late Clyde and Ethel Gibb, Buzz was a third-generation Californian. His family called him “Buster” at that time. He and his late sister, Barbara, grew up in Oakland, attending Cleveland Elementary and Oakland High School. The family crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in their Plymouth the day the bridge opened in 1936. During the Great Depression, Buzz worked odd jobs, including selling newspapers and working at a gas station and an all-night garage. He saved enough to purchase his first car — a 1928 Model A Ford. Two weeks later, he sold that car and upgraded to a 1931 Roadster Model A Ford. These would be the first of many special cars he bought and sold over his lifetime.
Buzz turned 18 years old two days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, and joined the Naval Air Corps in 1943. He was given the nickname, “Buzz”, that year during his instruments and advanced flying training in Pascoe, WA. Flying low near a passenger train carrying primarily women, he tipped one wing, “buzzing” the train. He received a stern reprimand from his commanding officer, and was “Buzz” thereafter.
Buzz earned his “wings” in 1944 at Corpus Christi, TX, then shipped out to Hawaii for combat training at Kaneohe Naval Air Station. As a Navy pilot in the VPB-104 squadron, he flew 65 missions in the B-24 Liberator in the South Pacific during World War II.
After the war, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area. He studied business at San Francisco City College, transferred to the University of California Berkeley, and then pursued a career in real estate. He worked for two Oakland real estate brokers for three years before getting his broker’s license in 1951 and opening his own real estate office. In 1961 he successfully won the bid for the Boatel in Oakland’s Jack London Square, his first waterfront hotel.
He founded Thunderbird Properties in the 1950s, buying, selling, and building hotels. Initially, he built his hotels in Northern California, then later expanded into Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Utah. He met the founder of Best Western hotels in the late 50’s/early 60’s and became one of the earliest voting members of what is now a worldwide organization. He built, purchased, and renovated almost two dozen Best Western hotels.
Buzz also owned the Oakland Athletic Club, was a director and majority shareholder of the Bank of Oakland (since sold to Innovative Bank) and was the managing member of Tahoe Yacht Harbor on the North shore of Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City, CA.
An experienced yachtsman, he meticulously restored and maintained for nearly 25 years the famous Thunderbird — a 1939, 55-foot Hackercraft yacht. He and his wife, Joan, owned Thunderbird longer than any previous owner. He was also a major donor of the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society, and gifted a building to house the organization’s Lake Tahoe Discovery Center and Museum, now under construction at Incline Village, Nevada.
In 1969, he quit smoking, lost weight, and became dedicated to health and fitness for nearly 60 years, inspired by his friend, Jack Lalanne, the godfather of modern fitness. Buzz was an avid skier and helicopter skier, traveling the world and making new friends everywhere he went. Of the Greatest Generation, globetrotting Buzz could enchant a room from a backwoods Saskatchewan bar to a Florida social club.
Buzz was blessed with four marriages over the course of his life.
In 1953, he married Donna. They had two sons together, Gary and Jeff, and Buzz adopted Donna’s daughter, the late Robin Gibb. They lived together in various San Francisco East Bay communities — Montclair, Berkeley, Lafayette, and Piedmont. During their 13-year marriage, Buzz’s business grew at a rapid pace.
In 1973, he married Joan. Together, they expanded the Boatel in Jack London Square in Oakland, CA into the luxury Waterfront Plaza Hotel. They acquired and restored the Thunderbird yacht, and purchased a vacation home along the North shore of Lake Tahoe, as well as the Tahoe Yacht Harbor. Their 26-year marriage ended in divorce in 1999.
In 2002, Buzz moved to Jupiter Island, FL, and in 2003, married Patsy, the mother of his third son, Jordan. They divorced in 2012, and he remarried Joan in 2016.
Buzz is survived by his wife, Joan Gibb; sons, Gary Gibb and wife Charlotte of Lafayette, CA, Jeff Gibb and wife Marie of Monterey, CA, and Jordan Gibb, of Jupiter Island, FL; four grandchildren, Troy Gibb and Cody Gibb of San Francisco, CA, Haley Gibb and Chad Gibb of Monterey, CA; nieces and nephews, Tracy Wahrlich of Alamo, CA, Steve Wahrlich of Billings, MT, Michelle Larson of Edwards, CO, and Gail Ferry of Vail, CO; many grand- and great-grand nieces, nephews and cousins; and countless friends, many of whom he considered “family.”
Memorial services are being arranged in both Florida and California. Please contact BuzzGibbMemorial@ThunderbirdTahoe.org for details.
Donations in Buzz’s memory may be sent to Thunderbird Lake Tahoe, P.O. Box 6812, Incline Village, Nevada 89450 or on-line at http://www.ThunderbirdTahoe.org/donate
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