Ed Gibbs Sr., a pool industry pioneer in the Canadian market and a popular figure among his peers across the border as well, died Oct. 17 of complications from surgery. He was 83.
With his cheerful, thoughtful and mild-mannered demeanor, the co-founder of Toronto-based Gib-San Pools came to be known among Canadian professionals and his fellow Master Pools Guild members not only for the success of his company through two generations, but also for his ethics and willingness to help.
“He was always giving good advice, good direction, good counsel,” said Dick Covert, executive director of the Master Pools Guild. “He understood what it would take to have a successful company and what it would take to have a successful guild, and he always was sharing those ideas.”
Edward John Gibbs was born March 22, 1930 in Toronto, the only child of a Scottish immigrant. After graduating from Northern Collegiate High School in Toronto, he began a career in real estate. One of his co-workers had a brother who worked in the concrete drain business. When that company decided to go into pool construction, Gibbs joined as a salesperson. This was the 1950s — early in the industry’s history, when most pool companies were small and the owner took care of sales. So Gibbs likely was Canada’s first hired pool salesperson, estimates his son and current Gib-San president, Ed Gibbs Jr.
Gibbs thrived at the job, selling 100 pools his first year. He remained a salesperson at heart for the rest of his life. “I would say he was one of the best, if not the best, swimming pool salesman that you’d ever meet in your life,” said the younger Gibbs. “He brought a level of enthusiasm and energy to the table every time. Every sale was like his first. After he passed away … clients would say they remember him sitting at the kitchen table, grinning about how excited he was about them getting a pool.”
In 1972, Gibbs and his co-worker, Robert Sanelli, decided to start their own company dedicated to pools. The name Gib-San Pools was created using the first part of their last names. In the late 1980s, Gibbs purchased Sanelli’s share of the business.
Gibbs was a founding member of the Ontario Swimming Pool Association, serving as its president in 1968. He was also one of the first members of the national organization that eventually formed, at first called the Canadian Spa and Pool Association, but now known as the Pool & Hot Tub Council of Canada.
Gibbs served on the board of Master Pools as well, starting at a crucial time in the 1980s, when the organization was branching out from its roots with the manufacturer Swim Quip.
“He was instrumental in helping us develop to the next level,” said Dave Thill, vice president of Master Pools by Beauty Pools in Lancaster, N.Y. “He was able to pull together a very diverse group of individuals and create a bond of brotherhood that prevails to this day.”
Covert recalled the first time they met, when he was interviewing to become the MPG’s executive director: “He’s one of those individuals who stood out. I remember exactly where I was sitting and where he was sitting because he had this big, wonderful grin that he always had. You’d look at him and think, ‘That seems like an awfully nice person.’ He was always very supportive, always very helpful. Ed used to call about once a month just to see how things were going and just to see how I was doing.”
In the mid-1990s, while still in his 60s, Gibbs sold the company to his son, who went on to add the industry’s first construction-related ISO ratings , international construction and a retail operation.
Many company owners understandably have a hard time turning the reins over to their offspring, but Gibbs’ thoughtfulness made the transition a smooth one, his son said. The economy was in a slump around the time of the succession, so Gibbs Jr. suggested expanding into vinyl-liner construction to try to fill the gap. The elder Gibbs hesitated at first: He was a concrete builder for nearly 40 years at a time when some contractors didn’t hold vinyl-liner pools in such high esteem. But Gibbs thought it over with his characteristic deliberation, became an advocate and sold a few dozen of the pools that year. “He was an amazing guy to change gears that quickly,” Ed Gibbs Jr. said. “We decided we were going to build the pools our way, to the highest standard possible.”
That dynamic remained between father and son for the next two decades. Gibbs Sr. stayed with the company, working a couple of days a week and serving as mentor, adviser and cheerleader until his passing, Gibbs Jr. said.
Gibbs is survived by his wife of 63 years, Maureen, and their seven children — Ed Jr., Cathy, Patricia, Gerry, Dan, Chris and Joe — as well as 16 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.