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Issue Date:  January 13, 2006

Former NCR staffer dies at 67


Dawn Gibeau, an editorial staff member of NCR for 23 years, including 15 years as managing editor, died Dec. 29 in St. Paul, Minn., after a two-year battle with lung cancer. She was 67.

Gibeau joined NCR’s editorial staff in 1972, becoming its first female member. She finished a 26-year career with the National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company as editor of Praying magazine, which the company published in the 1980s and ’90s.

Former NCR editor Arthur Jones, who promoted Gibeau to managing editor, said she was meticulous in her work. He praised her for developing and adding important women writers to NCR’s list of contributors. “She played a key role in the key post-Vatican II era,” he said.

Gibeau served as managing editor while Tom Fox was editor of NCR. Fox, who later became publisher, said, “Dawn was the heart of the news operation. Everything went through her desk, and she saw to it that things were clear and accurate. She not only had the sharp edge that a good journalist should have, but she had a love for the subject and always remained on the hopeful side.”

Other recollections from colleagues: She had a vast store of general knowledge and an abundance of trivia; she was solid, not flashy; generous in an understated, practical way; quick to praise; a speller’s speller and a grammarian’s grammarian; and admixture of seriousness and fun.

After an article on NCR by New York writer Nat Hentoff, Gibeau told a colleague who admired it, “Yes, but he never really captured the fun we have here.” On occasion, Gibeau’s sense of fun found expression through music, emerging at Christmas (with the singing of an original carol) and at parties (with the playing of a joyful piano).

As an editor, Gibeau did not remain tied to her desk. The files of her articles show her interests were wide-ranging and far-flung. The early years were dominated by women’s issues, Latin American affairs, ecumenism, and peace and justice. In the later years she added prayer, spirituality and liturgy as major interests.

She traveled extensively in her reporting. There are datelines, for example, from throughout Central and South America. In 1991, Gibeau was selected as a Jefferson fellow of the East-West Center in Honolulu. This led her to China, Hong Kong, Japan and Malaysia.

Ending her days as NCR’s managing editor, she returned to St. Paul in 1991, where she functioned as the paper’s international correspondent. Gibeau began and ended her journalistic career at the newspaper of the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese. The first time it was known as the Catholic Bulletin, the second as The Catholic Spirit.

Gibeau’s interest in Latin American became personal in the early 1980s. She adopted a child, Julia, from Colombia. After her return to Minnesota, Gibeau became active in Minnesota Friends of the Orphans, serving as a board member and a term as president. The organization supports orphans in nine Latin American countries.

As editor of Praying magazine, Gibeau wrote a column she called “Dawnings.” In it, she published a “Litany of the Long Haul.” While she was thinking of others, the prayer’s opening lines apply to her approach to her craft and her life: “Thank you, oh God, for the constant ones, for their steadfastness in service, their faithfulness undeterred by frustration.”

In describing her fight against lung cancer in an essay published a year ago in The Catholic Spirit, Gibeau wrote, “God always answers prayers. Often in my life, however, the answer to my prayers had been ‘no.’ This time, little by little, I learned that God was saying ‘yes’ to me, ‘yes’ through the many people and prayers, the yes that gave me peace and hope.”

Gibeau is survived by her daughter, Julia, and two granddaughters, Jasmin and Jade. A brother, George Gibeau, also survives, as do a nephew and two nieces. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at the Church of St. Therese in St. Paul Dec. 31.

Art Winter, a member of NCR’s editorial staff from 1966-74, was founding editor of Praying magazine.

National Catholic Reporter, January 13, 2006

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