RED BANK — Mark Gibson’s family has lots of questions about what went wrong.
Gibson had lived in Red Bank for more than 15 years, had worked at a good job. But over the course of time, things had spiraled out of control, to the point that two weeks ago, Gibson made the terrible decision to end his life.
According to Red Bank Police Lieutenant Eliot Ramos, Gibson’s body was discovered in his West Front Street apartment at approximately 1:05 p.m. on Jan. 27. And while the county medical examiner’s report is not yet completed, Ramos characterized his death as “non-suspicious.”
Shocked and grieving family members last week acknowledged that Gibson, 50, had committed suicide.
His father, Ron Gibson, speaking from his San Francisco, California, home this week, said Jan. 27 was the last day his son could be in his Red Bank apartment, as a sheriff’s officer was scheduled to arrive and serve Mark with his final eviction notice.
“He was going through distress,” said his sister Kathy Gibson-Swing, of her brother’s last few months of life.
Gibson, 50, had seen his life take a downward trend, most severely in the last few months, family members explained. His sister Connie D’Aura said Gibson over the years had grown somewhat distant from family members. But in the last few months he began contacting them asking for assistance, as he faced challenges in paying his rent and buying groceries.
Family members wondered and worried about him, his sisters said last week, when they came to Red Bank to clean out his apartment and get his affairs in order.
Gibson grew up in the Bay Area and had joined the Navy out of high school. Following his enlistment, he eventually made his way east working for AT&T at the telecommunications firm’s Staten Island location, and settling in in Red Bank, according to family members.
“He was making six-figures, paying taxes,” the elder Gibson remembered.
However, it appears he hadn’t worked on a regular basis for a number of years. He suffered a serious injury as a passenger on a motorcycle, which caused him to remain out from work on disability for quite a while, his sisters said. And when he returned to work, it was in another slot that was eventually earmarked for elimination as the company underwent downsizing and reorganization.
Gibson, they said, didn’t file for unemployment after losing his job; instead he lived off his severance package, retirement money, an insurance settlement from the accident and the dividends from investments. But Gibson’s investments, his father said, took a hit in the 2008 financial meltdown, contributing to his son’s financial and emotional distress.
“It was his lowest point to have to ask for money,” Gibson-Swing.
“He was very independent,” sister Carol Rogers added.
“There are a lot of people who don’t understand what it’s like to not have a job and be alone,” Gibson-Swing observed as she recalled her brother, who never married or had kids.
Gibson’s difficulties extended beyond his inability to pay rent, and he began going most days to Lunch Break soup kitchen and food pantry, 121 Drs. James Parker Boulevard. There he would get a meal, some groceries and talk with some of the clients.
“He seemed like such a nice person,” remembered Pam Elam, Asbury Park, who sat at Lunch Break, working on her word puzzles. “It’s so sad, so sad.”
Medhat Michail, who goes by “M&M,” a Bank Street resident, said Gibson would often help him navigate on the facility’s computer, while Gibson would use it to actively search for a job.
“He was depressed,” Michail said, recalling Gibson telling him the only thing he owned was his car, though it was rundown, and he couldn’t afford gas or insurance. “I asked him why didn’t he sell it,” Michail said. “He said it was the last thing he had and he didn’t want to give it up.”
“I think he felt trapped,” Michail said.
“I thought he was quiet, very respectful,” said Lunch Break’s executive director Gwendolyn Love.
Lunch Break recently put a couple of computers in the main area, creating an Internet café to allow clients to look for work. “He was helping a lot of clients, helping with the computers,” which he seemed to enjoy,” Love said, remembering that she had asked him about working as a computer counselor. That idea seemed to appeal to him, Love said, but he declined, telling her he planned on moving in with his sister.
After his final court appearance on the eviction notice, Rogers said, her husband planned to help Gibson move to their Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, home, where he could get things together and start fresh.
At that point he began to search out social services but appeared to have become frustrated with the bureaucracy. His attempt to file for unemployment years after losing his job got him nowhere, with Gibson being told it was too late for benefits, according to his sister.
It appeared that everything came crashing down with the final eviction notice. “It was almost like he got some shocking, horrible news that pushed him over the edge,” Gibson-Swing said.
Her brother spoke three languages, loved art and music, wrote poetry. “You see how beautiful somebody is on the inside when they write something like this,” Gibson-Swing said of her brother’s poetry.
Gibson had been treated for depression years earlier while still living in San Francisco, the elder Gibson said. And Mark had made an appointment to meet with someone from the Veterans Administration for possible treatment, the elder Gibson only recently found out. “So, he knew he was hurting,” he said.
“I read somewhere that people who are very bright are able to mask depression,” he said. “And I think that was what it was in this case.”
His phone had been cut off, his car was in no condition to make the trip to Harrisburg and it seemed there were only dead ends. “I just wish we would have been able to help him,” Gibson-Swing said.
“Some people are just too proud to let people know their circumstances,” Love said. But there was help available, which Love said she finds really distressing.
“You feel like you let him down, some how,” she said. “Because it should have not happened.”
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