Civic leader Tibbetts dies at 87

Theron Larkins, Special to The County
10 years ago

    A longtime Caribou businessman and civic leader passed away this week.

    After a long and fulfilling life, Sterling R. Tibbetts passed away on April 7, 2014, at the age of 87. Tibbetts was born in Caribou on August 21, 1926 to Forest Sidney Tibbetts and Emily Ouellette Tibbetts.

    Tibbetts was very involved in the Caribou community, especially with clubs and activities at the Caribou High School, where he was president of his graduating Class in 1944. Upon graduating from high school, Tibbetts was eager to serve his country and join in the war effort. During the latter stages of World War II, Tibbetts enlisted and served in the United States Army Air Corps until 1946.

    After his two-year stint in the military he attended Bryant College, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in business administration, in 1950. After graduation, he returned home to Caribou to manage the family fertilizer and insecticide business. In 1956, he founded Tibbetts TV & Appliance, where he strived to provide superior goods and services throughout the firm’s 40 years of operation.

    Fellow board member and current president of the Aroostook Savings and Loan Association John Swanberg, served with Tibbetts for much of his 18 years on the bank board and got to know him well enough to explain just how good of a person Tibbetts truly was.

    “He was just an A1 guy,” said Swanberg. “He was just a great guy to be around. We’ve certainly lost one of the good ones.”

    Swanberg continued by mentioning that most people in the community remember Tibbetts as the owner of Tibbetts TV & Appliance, which was the first thing that came to mind for former acquaintance, Reginald “Reggie” Thompson, who recalls many years ago, searching for a Christmas tree far too close to the actual day.

    “There was no one with any trees left in the entire town, except for one tree in the window of Tibbetts TV & Appliance,” said Thompson. “I really needed to find a tree and Tibbetts was willing to help me out. He was a good guy like that.”

    In 1951, Tibbetts married the love of his life, Reta Daigle Tibbetts. The two were life-long companions until her passing in 1996. They loved to experience the world around them, whether they were camping on the Allagash or riding camels in Morocco, they shared many adventures, spanning across 22 different countries they would visit during their marriage.

    As his endeavors across 22 nations would imply, Tibbetts was an avid outdoorsman. He enjoyed hunting and fishing, and was even a registered Maine Guide for 25 years. During his retirement, he had no reservations about canoeing and camping by himself in the Florida Everglades.

    “I remember when he owned a camp on Madawaska Lake, everyone else would be back on shore after a long day of fishing, but Sterling was usually still out there,” said Swanberg. “He always wanted to be the last one on the lake.”

    Tibbetts was frequently involved with his community and served or participated on or in a long list of clubs and activities. He served as a lieutenant in the original Caribou Police Reserves. He was the president of the Caribou Hotel Association. He was a member of the Rotary Club of Caribou  for 61 years. He served on the Caribou Planning Commission, Caribou Zoning Board and Caribou School Board. He was on the Holy Rosary Church Building Committee and Holy Rosary Parish Council.

    Tibbetts was a board member for the Aroostook Savings and Loan Association for 18 years. He was honored to serve as president of the members for the financial association his father founded in 1936.

    A Mass of Christian burial will be held on Saturday, April 12 at 10 a.m. at the Parish of the Precious Blood in Caribou. A Celebration of Life will follow at the Caribou Scout Hall on Otter Street.