Capital Electric Cooperative (CEC) members and local business owners, Bob and DeEtta Gibbons, have lived an interesting and exciting life full of colorful stories. Living this productive and happy life has served them both well, and it’s evidenced by what they have accomplished over the years.
Bob has always been an inventor by nature. From the time he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1964, where he served as a crew chief and mechanic on the F-101 fighter jet, he has been fixing or improving all types of equipment. Even at the young age of 80, Bob continues to create more unique products to make life easier for people.
Following his service in the Air Force in 1967, Bob made frequent trips to Billings, Montana, where he eventually met his wife, DeEtta, a Williston native. After dating for only six months, Bob and DeEtta realized they were meant to be together and were married. Fifty-four years later, they continue to enjoy the lives they have created in Bismarck.
When they moved to North Dakota in 1981 and later to Bismarck in 1986, Bob recognized a need for his expertise in boat repair and maintenance. He started Gibbons Fiberglass and Aluminum Boat Repair in 1987 and hit the ground running as the only boat repair shop in the state. Bob had already been a marine mechanic since 1968. For the next 34 years, Bob would provide top-notch repair services on all types of watercraft.
When asked how significantly the market for boat repair has grown over the past several years, Bob remarks, “It has grown immensely, as the number of people buying boats has increased greatly over the years. Being the only ‘game’ in town, I had no problem staying busy all year round.”
DeEtta adds, “We thought the boat repair business would be seasonal at best, but soon realized it would take a year-round effort to keep up with demand.”
What keeps Bob busy today is the production and marketing of a product he developed several years ago, the Capsizer 8000.
“When I started my business in Bismarck, I realized I would need a way to elevate and flip the boats so I could easily access the entire frame, including the bottom, of course. My first invention to make this happen came about when I purchased an operating room table from the hospital in town. I was able to convert it into a machine to suspend the boats with a pump of the hydraulic pedal.”
As time went on, Bob recognized the need to develop a more robust and flexible piece of equipment to lift, flip and turn the boats. The Capsizer 8000 was the perfect solution and Bob, along with his subcontractor, Ray Dockter, could create them in his shop.
“Ray is an amazing welder, and he puts this machine together for me,” Bob says. “We have sold them to repair shops all over the country and even around the world.”
Being an inventor has served Bob well throughout his life. Along the way, Bob developed the Arctic Shark fiberglass one-person sled, which is designed for downhill sledding. It is a steerable unit that allows the user to have complete control. He eventually converted his basic one-person design into something more amazing. The two-person sled he later developed allows persons with physical, cognitive and visual challenges to enjoy the experience of operating the sled.
These days, besides operating the capsizer business, DeEtta and Bob keep themselves busy around the house northwest of Bismarck. DeEtta loves to decorate their home, and Bob has remodeled it completely over the years. Bob also works on his 1963 Volvo P1800. This model was used in “The Saint,” a television series from the 1960s that featured Roger Moore, who later became James Bond.
The Gibbons’ have one daughter, Anjanette, who works in the Bismarck school system. They continue to work hard and enjoy their lives with many years yet to come. “I plan on being around a long time yet,” Bob proclaims. DeEtta just smiles as she has grown accustomed to Bob’s antics throughout their many years of marriage.
We thank Bob and DeEtta for being valued CEC members and for adding so much to the Bismarck community and our entire state over the years. Their positive and welcoming attitudes are a testament to how they have embraced life and what it has to offer.
STORY AND PHOTOS BY WES ENGBRECHT