In this life we meet many people. Some of them pass through almost unnoticed but others have a substantial impact. One of those people was William D. “Daisy” Gilbert.
The first time I meet Daisy was back in 1969 when he was the wrestling coach for North Clarion High School. I was on the Brookville wrestling team and at that point in time, he did not make much of an impression on me.
The second time he popped up in my life was when I was a sports writer for this newspaper. I was covering a Sigel Cubs baseball game at Truman Field. There was a threat of rain and everyone was edging toward their cars in case the sky opened up. Everyone except Daisy. He was the Cubs’ first base coach and he stood his ground in the pouring rain while everyone scurried away. I thought to myself that either this guy was nuts or he really loves baseball. He was anything but nuts. He really, really loved baseball. I did not know just how much until a few years later when our paths crossed again.
Daisy was a co-founder of the Jefferson County Historical Society and had been an officer with the JCHS for years before I joined that board. During that time I grew to know and admire Daisy.
To meet Daisy you would think him a rube. Rough hewn often with a chaw in his cheek. You had to dig a little deeper to find an educated man who was a true educator. Long after he retired as a teacher he would still teach to tourists who came into town. When they arrived they met Bill Gilbert who acted as a tour guide for the town. It was just something he liked to do.
To get a full appreciation of the man you need to look at his obituary. Seldom have I seen an obit that contained more actual accomplishments than that of Bill Gilbert.
I will treasure the times I had with Daisy. I will miss the twinkle in his eye, his infectious laugh and his total lack of ego. The world could use a few more like Daisy.
Daisy’s reputation was actually world-wide. The late Don McMurray told the story of how he had leave while he was serving with the U. S. Navy during World War II. In the Pacific that meant going to some atoll where the Navy would provide beer and ice cream. Don said he barely had set foot on shore when he heard someone exclaim in a loud voice “I’m Daisy Gilbert and I’m from Sigel Pennsylvania.” Needless to say Don was amazed he had traveled halfway around the world only to run into a guy from Sigel!
I asked Daisy once how he acquired his nickname. He told me he thought it went back to when he was playing ball and walked from Sigel to Brookville to play. He said he would stop and smell the Daiseys on the way and somehow that name stuck. I suspect there are other stories on the origin of that name. I will add one of my one. Back in the 19th century it was common to call someone a “Daisy” if they were an outstanding individual, someone you could rely upon to do the outstanding as though it was a usual occurrence.
To me that is Bill Gilbert. A real “Daisy.”