ALBANY — Retired Oregon State Police Trooper Leroy “Gibby” Gibson is staying upbeat, even though he needs a double lung transplant because of a rare pulmonary disease.
“I can’t quit. I won’t quit. It’s not in my nature,” said the 67-year-old North Albany resident.
His health has rapidly deteriorated because of pulmonary fibrosis, a disease sometimes associated with soldiers coming back from Iraq.
About 10 years ago, Gibson travelled to the war-torn country to train Iraqi police officers and stayed for nearly five months.
The disease started as a cough in early 2013, and Gibson wasn’t sure what was wrong with him.
It took five different doctors and more than a year to get a diagnosis.
“It’s frustrating, especially when you’ve been as active as I have,” he said.
Gibson never smoked, and in retirement, he continued to work, including for Oregon State Police at Oregon State University and the Green Peter Reservoir area.
He also was on a graveyard security detail for Gov. John Kitzhaber at the politician’s residence until earlier this month.
Gibson kept in shape, exercising two hours a day, but now doctors won’t let him work out.
“That’s been driving me as crazy as anything,” he said.
Gibson is proud of a lifetime spent helping and serving others, and on a recent day, he recounted decades in police work. The wall of his den was covered with plaques and other awards.
He began his career in 1971 with the U.S. Capitol Police in Washington, D.C.
After serving there for about four years, he took a job with Oregon State Police, retiring in 1999 after 25 years of service. He was in Albany for 24 of those.
Besides going on patrol, Gibson was the head defensive tactics instructor for Oregon State Police, and he taught “hundreds and hundreds” of policemen.
He also is well known for holding community classes on rape prevention safety.
During his time as a policeman, Gibson worked every type of case imaginable, from murders to traffic violations.
And some of his stories are stranger than fiction.
There was the time in Washington, D.C., during the State of the Union address when he drew and threatened to shoot a Secret Service agent who wasn’t wearing proper ID — and got a letter of commendation.
And then there was the time in Linn County when he and a detective, looking for a marijuana grow, realized they were in a forest of dope “trees” 20 feet tall.
“If you talked to most officers, they’ve all got the stories of the unusual things that happen out there,” Gibson said.
“It was a fantastic career,” he said, as he flipped through a scrapbook of newspaper clippings, photos and other mementos.
Gibson’s wife Patricia and other family members have been shouldering the load for him as far as housework and other chores.
“They’ve just been great. ... Even my two little grandsons have been over here doing yard work, and one of them is only 4,” he said.
People can make donations to help cover Gibson’s medical expenses at any OSU Federal Credit Union, or through YouCaring.com, or by mail to his family at PO Box 345, Tangent, OR 97389.
For more information, go to the Leroy “Gibby” Gibson’s fight for life page on Facebook.