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Gilbert Donald Aliber passed away peacefully on August 31, 2023 at the age of 90, after almost 30 years battling Parkinson’s Disease.
Gil was a devoted and loving husband to Phyllis Stone Aliber, his wife of almost 67 years. He was a loving brother to Beatrice Aliber Epsten and a very proud and supportive father to Jeff, Stephen (1960-1968), and Jennifer (Steven Dannin). As Uncle Gil, he adored his niece and seven nephews. However, his favorite role was being Grandpa Gil to Matt (Maggie Lamiell), Josh, and Ben Aliber and Sarah and Jacob Dannin. Grandpa Gil was a sideline regular; usually spending his Saturdays shuttling between sporting events where he never missed the chance to cheer everyone on and was adopted by all the parents and kids alike. In later years he offered guidance, never hesitant to share his stories, so they could benefit from his life lessons.
Born in Greenfield, MA on May 25, 1933, he was the son of the late Jennie Gold Aliber and Philip Aliber. Gil attended the Mt. Hermon School for Boys (now Northfield Mount Hermon) that his mother chose for him as a safe haven before she died when he was 15. Gil embraced Mt. Hermon in every way. As a skilled athlete, he co-captained the football team and played four years of lacrosse. It was at Mt. Hermon that Gil was awarded the prestigious Fred McVeigh Award as the student who best exemplified the values of the school: ‘to strive to act with humanity and purpose with every step.’ These were the values that he took into his life, his relationships, and his career.
After graduating from Amherst College with a history degree, he served as a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Air Force where he flew as the navigator of a three-person crew on a B-47 bomber. After his discharge, he returned to Greenfield to start a family and work with his father at Aliber’s, a women’s clothing store. In his mid-thirties, after the death of his son Stephen, he decided to change careers and moved his family to Boston where he earned a Master’s in psychiatric counseling from Boston University. That led to finding his vocation as a champion for others, and in 1973 he took the position of CEO at Rutland Mental Health Center, a 12-person child guidance clinic in Rutland, VT. By the time he retired 25 years later, the agency serviced most of the behavioral health needs of Rutland County and had expanded to some 400 full- and part-time employees. He held high expectations for all who worked for him and took his role as leader and mentor very seriously.
Gil was also professionally active at the national level, serving 20 years as Board Chairman of the Mental Health Risk Retention Group and was active in both the National Council of Community Mental Health and the Mental Health Corporation of America. Through these positions Gil made life-time friends whom he loved and admired. Gil had a zest for life. He shared his wisdom, thought deeply, and laughed heartily. Gil had an incredible gift for generating deep, and frequently instantaneous, connections with others. He approached everyone he encountered with a smile and a “hello!” Gil regularly struck up 20-minute long conversations with passersby, often stunning his grandchildren when he admitted he had absolutely no idea who he was talking to because he spoke to everyone as if he had known them forever. He embraced life as a Vermonter. An avid downhill and cross-country skier, he would often rise before the sun to get in a few runs before work. He loved canoeing, jogging, walking, and getting lost with Phyllis on the back roads of Vermont where they took joy in the beauty of the Green Mountain State. He loved the Red Sox and New England Patriots. Everyone would know if it was a good game because you could hear him screaming at the television. Both teams have lost a devout fan.
Once diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, Gil only ramped up his desire to live life to its fullest. He found community in supporting other Parkinson’s patients through programs sponsored by Jewish Family & Children’s services in Waltham, MA where he sang and performed with the Tremble Clefs and danced with their Music and Movement Therapy group. He also became an avid boxer at the Rock Steady Boxing program that supported strengthening people in all stages of Parkinson’s. When no longer able to box, he still went just to encourage others. Gil often said that getting Parkinson’s was a gift because it led him to a community of people that he came to love, and he cherished the support they gave one another throughout their journeys.
There will be Memorial Service at the Northfield Mount Hermon School Chapel in Gill, MA at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, September 6, 2023. Burial will follow at 2:00 pm at the Greenfield Hebrew Cemetery at Log Plain Road, Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Donations may be made in Gil’s memory to Jewish Family & Children’s Services Parkinson’s programs in Waltham, MA or to Rock Steady Boxing Boston, 356 Howe St. Methuen, MA 01844.
The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to Mary Beth Russell, who started as a walking companion for Gil when he was no longer steady enough to go alone. She has been Gil’s constant angel, cheerleader, and friend for ten years and is now and always a cherished member of our family.