Erma Frances GIBBER
June 6, 1933 – April 29, 2021
Erma Frances Gibber, age 87, of Alexandria, Virginia, passed away on April 29, 2021, following a short illness. Her husband, Philip F. Gibber, passed earlier in the year.
She lived her life cherishing being with people, sharing thoughts, activities, and creations. Ever a traveler, her file cabinets overflowed with articles on places to visit and things to do. She visited around forty countries, and all but two states, but always expected to fit in time for more. An avid book reader and movie watcher to the last, she was still reading several books a week. She enjoyed discovering a new author, back-ordering often obscure movies she had read about, or simply revisiting her favorite film, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. She loved flowers and gardens and music and art, creating opportunities to immerse herself and her friends in all of these things.
Erma collected anything and everything she thought beautiful, interesting, or adorable, from books and sundials to old cooking devices and Noah’s Ark toys, often with a story accompanying each. She often met artists and gallery owners, following up with them if she came across an article or event she thought might interest them, and sometimes becoming life-long friends. She was a long-time member of the Fan Association of North America, until recently attending the annual conventions, having purchased her first fan on the boardwalk in Atlantic City while only in elementary school, and acquiring many more since.
Born Erma Sinowitz on June 6, 1933, in Liberty, New York, to Ethel and Henry Sinowitz, she excelled academically and was a talented pianist (often accompanying her mother’s operatic singing), and longed to explore the world. After graduating from Liberty High School, she studied sociology at Boston University, taking summer classes to graduate in 1954 in just three years. She earned her Master’s from the School of Social Work at Columbia University in 1956, and started a career in psychiatric social work as a caseworker at the Brooklyn State Mental Hospital, after interning at Mt. Sinai Hospital. She then worked at the Rhode Island State Mental Hospital.
While still in New York, Erma met her future husband, Philip Gibber, then a Naval aviator, at a Bar Mitzvah in the Catskills. They married in 1957, and lived in Rhode Island before beginning a series of moves around the country as he was stationed near Ithaca, NY, Key West, FL, Monterey, CA, Camp Springs, MD, and West Hartford, CT. She made the most of each location, taking her first international trip on a cruise through the Panama Canal. When on cross-country car trips, she explored as many places as possible along the way. Wherever she was, she researched interesting places to visit and attended as many cultural events as she could fit in. And though she initially put her career on hold and dedicated herself to bringing up their three children, Jere, Eric, and Joel, she returned to her work as a psychiatric social worker in 1970 with a position at the Blue Hills Hospital in Hartford.
Then in 1971, she and Philip jumped at the opportunity for a four-year assignment in London. She found work at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen’s Square and eagerly took advantage of all the concerts, plays, art exhibits, galleries, restaurants, and shops the city had to offer. It also was an easy point of departure for travels throughout Europe and Asia, in addition to excursions to every reach of England, Scotland, and Wales. Friends and family often stayed when passing through, with an open invitation to join in exploring the latest garden or museum she had read about.
The following years found them returning to West Hartford, and then back to London, before finally settling in Alexandria, VA. She continued to work, holding positions at the Institute of Living in Hartford, St. Stephen’s Hospital in London, and finally as a psychotherapist at the Alexandria Mental Health Center. Erma also volunteered with the American Red Cross and was a certified mediator in Virginia for visitation cases.
Erma did her best to always keep in touch with her family and friends from all aspects of her life. She and Philip often entertained at home and, in later years, in the tea house they built in the back yard. All were assured of a warm welcome, plenty of food, and maybe the contents of the Rumtopf when they visited.
Erma is survived by her daughter Jere and son-in-law J.G. Harrington, sons Eric and Joel, and her brother Barry Sinowitz. Erma and Philip will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. A private online memorial service will be held for Erma shortly after. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to:
Jewish Chaplain’s Fund at Fort Belvoir Checks payable to: FBCTOF Memo line: Jewish Account – in memory of Erma Gibber Mail to: Garrison Religious Support Office ATTN: Funds Office 10011 Middleton Road, Building 221 Fort Belvoir, VA 22060
American Red Cross Dedicate this gift: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation.html/ Checks payable to: American Red Cross P.O. Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839 Further information: 800.435.7669
National Museum of Women in the Arts Tribute gifts: https://nmwa.org/support/ways-to-give/ Checks payable to: National Museum of Women in the Arts P.O. Box 120, Merrifield, VA 22116-9620 Further information: 866.875.4627
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Arlington National Cemetery