Cindy Gibson, Frederick Co. student whose mission was to speak on AIDS

June 08, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

BRUNSWICK -- Cindy M. Gibson, a Frederick County teen-ager with AIDS who made it her mission to spread word about the disease to young people, died Saturday, two days before her high school graduation.

Miss Gibson, who was 18, was seriously stricken with the advancing disease Thursday night at her home in Brunswick. She died early Saturday at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington.

She had spoken about acquired immune deficiency syndrome before dozens of high school and community groups in rural Maryland and metropolitan Washington since revealing that she had the disease about 18 months ago. She was a youth speaker for the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPA) in Washington.

"Her concern was getting the word out about AIDS and making people more aware that everyone is susceptible to the virus," said Keith Pollanen, a NAPA spokesman. "She was one of our better youth speakers. She made a difference in the community. She will be missed."

Carol Sue Gibson, the teen-ager's mother, said: "She was just tired. She was just tired of hurting. She was tired of getting up in the morning and feeling pain. She was ready to go. She reached out and talked to everybody she could reach and said her goodbyes in her own way."

When Miss Gibson's name was called during Monday night's graduation ceremonies for Brunswick High School, her 124 classmates and the audience gave her a standing ovation.

Her brother, Dewey Gibson, a 1990 Brunswick High School graduate now in the Navy, accepted her diploma. Her parents, Harry and Carol Sue Gibson, also attended.

Although Miss Gibson often felt tired from the disease during the past six months, she continued to be active with friends and some school events, said her aunt, Diane Frye, of Brunswick.

Miss Gibson participated in an AIDS Walk in Frederick recently, walking and using a wheelchair to complete the 10-kilometer course, said Trisha Grove, AIDS coordinator for the Frederick County Health Department.

"She had a wonderful, wonderful impact on everyone she met and spoke with," Ms. Grove said. "She has left her mark on all of us who knew her and had the pleasure to work with her."

Miss Gibson, who also suffered from sickle-cell anemia, became infected with the AIDS virus during a blood transfusion in 1984, before screening of blood for the human immunodeficiency virus became common practice.

She began suffering AIDS-related ailments in 1991 and decided in December 1992 to disclose to her classmates and others that she had the disease. She said she couldn't handle the stress of secrecy.

"I did a lot of thinking about it and decided it was the thing to do," she said during an interview then.

Her disclosure prompted an outpouring of support among classmates and the Brunswick community. Her courage attracted national media attention, and she appeared on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America."

"What I saw during this whole thing was total community involvement and total support," said Melvin Whitfield, principal at Brunswick High School. "It wasn't just a segment of people. It showed me there are still a lot of good people out there who care."

Miss Gibson was a member of the Brunswick chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving and St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Point of Rocks, where she sang in the choir and belonged to a youth group.

Funeral services were to be held at 11 a.m. today at the chapel at Stauffer Funeral Home in Frederick. Burial will be at Resthaven Memorial Gardens in Frederick.

In addition to her parents and her brother, survivors include her paternal grandparents, Dewey and Lanie Gibson of Coalwood, W. Va.; her maternal grandparents, Allen and Naomi Jones of Brunswick; several aunts and uncles; and many cousins.

Memorial donations may be made to the Hospice of Frederick County for AIDS Support, P.O. Box 1799, Frederick, Md. 21702.

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