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Personal stories mark McKibbin memorial service

Songs, dance, jokes, laughter color remembrance of prominent Vancouver man

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:
5 Photos
Jennifer McKibbin Harris, right, dances with her sister Megan at a memorial service for their father John McKibbin at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Vancouver on Saturday. McKibbin, one of Clark County's best-known community leader, died late last month.
Jennifer McKibbin Harris, right, dances with her sister Megan at a memorial service for their father John McKibbin at Columbia Presbyterian Church in Vancouver on Saturday. McKibbin, one of Clark County's best-known community leader, died late last month. (Natalie Behring/ The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Community leader John McKibbin was known by many names, his best friend and brother-in-law Rob Costa told a packed sanctuary.

Representative.

President and CEO.

Mr. Clark County.

“But to me, he is, and always will be, Butt-Head,” Costa said. “And I will always be Beavis.”

Costa’s tribute to his friend was one of many at a memorial service punctuated with laughs and the occasional off-color moment Saturday afternoon at Columbia Presbyterian Church, where hundreds gathered to honor and reflect on the life and memory of McKibbin.

One of Clark County’s best-known citizens, McKibbin died at 69 late last month when, while flying with passenger Irene Mustain, his World War II-era plane plunged into the Columbia River near Astoria, Ore.

McKibbin, an experienced pilot who restored a 1941 AT-6A, was on a mission to scatter the ashes of Mustain’s late husband, Terry Mustain.

Terry Mustain was a Vietnam veteran and Air Force pilot who died in 2013.

The cause of crash is still being investigated.

McKibbin boasted a long résumé of community service to Clark County, one that has been recounted many times in the weeks following his death.

He was a former state representative for the 49th Legislative District before going on to become a Clark County commissioner. He left elected office in 1990 to work in real estate. He also served in a number of volunteer and leadership roles for local civic organizations, most recently as the executive director of Identity Clark County.

“No amount of words will come close to capturing the essence of the man,” the Rev. Fitz Neal said.

But those community positions took a back seat Saturday, as McKibbin’s loved ones recalled their father, best friend, uncle, husband, grandfather and occasional troublemaker.

The tone was set early for the service, as rather than beginning with prayers or reflection, the first few minutes of the 1986 film “Top Gun” played on screens in the church.

McKibbin’s daughter, Jennifer McKibbin Harris, fondly recalled weekend mornings when her father would play the first few minutes of his favorite film at full blast to rouse his daughters from bed.

She admitted, however, that it wasn’t until she was an adult that she truly began to appreciate the days her father woke her with Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone.”

“His goal was to rattle the walls and shake the floors,” McKibbin Harris said.

And, just like her father, “we wanted to make sure all of you were awake,” McKibbin Harris said.

She also recounted the time she spent talking campaign strategy with her father for her own student government campaigns, making faces as she saw her dad and mom, Nancy McKibbin, stealing kisses in the kitchen, and the hours she and her sister Megan spent dancing with Daddy in the family room. Her memorial was complete with the McKibbin girls dancing to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” to applause and laughter from the audience.

Costa, meanwhile, recalled the hours the longtime friends spent playing golf, texting about college football and their shared fondness for gin and tonics. He recounted a Caribbean adventure the pair took, complete with rum punch that tasted too good and went down too easy.

“We were the happiest of pirates by the time we docked,” he said.

McKibbin Harris’ son and McKibbin’s oldest grandson, 8-year-old Grant, shared a letter he wrote to his grandfather, or Pops, complete with a memory of a visit to a car show.

All the cars were so cool, he said. But “yours was the coolest, especially because you let me drive it.”

Longtime friend Ron Arp, a local businessman, said McKibbin “lit up every meeting room and coffee shop” he entered during his long career, calling him a “trusted resource” whose impact will continue to be felt in Clark County.

“John fed this community passion and optimism,” Arp said. “In return, it fed him. It drove him. He was the man with the plan, many plans, big plans to make our community better.”

Columbian Education Reporter

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