November 5, 1932 - July 13, 2020
On Monday, July 13, 2020, Joe Gilbert passed away in Bartlesville, Ok. According to him, he was 87; but according to his baby sister, who has his birth certificate, he was actually 89. Everyone agrees Joe Olen Gilbert was born on November 5, but whether that was in 1932 or 1930, we’re not sure. He was born in Buffalo, Missouri, to Frank and Delphia (Shackelford) Gilbert. Joe was preceded in death by his parents and two brothers, Fred Gilbert and Bill Gilbert. He is survived by his wife, Joyce Gilbert of Barnsdall, his sister, Jean Lockerby of Lusby, Maryland, and several nieces and nephews The memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 18, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. on the Barnsdall High School Football Field. He will be interred at Ethel Reece Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions be sent to American Heritage Bank, PO Box 529 Barnsdall, OK 74002 to fund repairs and upkeep on his second home, the Joe Gilbert Fieldhouse. Joe Gilbert lived a rich and active life. After graduating high school at sixteen Joe joined the Air Force. There is rumor that he altered his birth certificate to be able to join which has led to the discrepancy of his true age. He served one year at Larson Air Force Base in Washington, which was originally named Moses Lake Army Air Base. Joe played baseball and football for the Air Force. He had never played football before because his high school in Buffalo didn’t have football. When his year was completed, he signed a contract to play professional baseball for the Cleveland Indians. He visited with his mother before reporting to the Indians to tell her of this opportunity. Joe’s mother had to quit school when she was in third or fourth grade to get a job after her family lost their house to a fire. She was a very intelligent woman who had missed the opportunity for an education. So, while she was very proud of Joe’s athletic abilities, she encouraged him to go to school. Joe contacted the Indians and told them to tear the contract up, he was honoring his mother’s wishes and would be accepting an athletic scholarship at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, OK. While at Northeastern, Joe lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He was one of very few students to ever accomplish this feat. Many times in his life he downplayed his academic abilities. Not only was he a four sport collegiate athlete, but he also earned a Bachelors of Science in Education Degree in 1954. Some people say after hearing about a teaching/coaching position in Barnsdall, Joe hitchhiked from Tahlequah to Barnsdall for the interview. We find this easy to believe because his sister, Jean, said while in college he often would have to hitchhike from the Missouri state line to the campus in Tahlequah. They only had one car and if they both happened to be home at the same time, she’d drive him to the state line and he’d walk from there. There was an Oklahoma State Trooper that often picked him up and took him the whole way. While it was a form of transportation he frequently had to use, he told Jean never to hitchhike, and never pick up a hitchhiker. She never did. Barnsdall Public Schools hired Joe Gilbert in the fall of 1954 and he officially became “Coach Gilbert” or “Gilb” to the students of BHS for the next 66 years. After a ten year courtship, Coach Gilbert married Joyce Infield, a player from his first team as a Panther Coach on June 4, 1964 in Nowata, Oklahoma. Coach Gilbert and Joyce made their lifetime home in Barnsdall, Oklahoma. In 1973, Coach Gilbert went on to earn his Masters in Education from NSU as he continued to coach several sports at the varsity level. In addition to his coaching and teaching duties at Barnsdall Public Schools, Coach Gilbert was a fixture in the community. He spent quality time teaching kids to swim at the swimming pool where he was a lifeguard, taking kids to water ski at the lake, coaching little league baseball teams, and playing tennis where he could pretty well beat anyone. Throughout his legendary career he amassed 3,912 wins as a high school coach in several different sports. He was proclaimed “high school sports winningest coach” with the most wins of any coach in national high school history. His teams earned state titles in baseball in 1980 and slow pitch softball in 2013. In baseball his teams were state runner ups in 1989, 1990, and 1991. The Barnsdall Panther softball teams were state runner ups eight different times. Coach Gilbert was inducted into Northeastern State University Athletics Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma High School Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Oklahoma High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Oklahoma High School Girls Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Oklahoma High School Slow Pitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In 2018 he was honored at the Tulsa World All World Awards with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2019 he was inducted into the National Federation of High School Associations National High School Hall of Fame. If you asked Coach Gilbert how many games he had won in his career, he’d say “none...the kids did.” He was a humble man who was embarrassed by the label The Legend. He would have preferred to be known as a man who loved his job, loved coaching, and loved the people and students of Barnsdall. What he achieved as a coach in the win/loss column was unheard of but the impact he had in the hearts and lives of his students and players was truly legendary. The world is a sadder place without him in it, but will forever be a better place because of the many lives he touched. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations be made to the Joe Gilbert Fieldhouse repair account at the American Heritage Bank in Barnsdall, Oklahoma.
On Monday, July 13, 2020, Joe Gilbert passed away in Bartlesville, Ok. According to him, he was 87; but according to his baby sister, who has his birth certificate, he was actually 89. Everyone agrees Joe Olen Gilbert was born on November... View Obituary & Service Information
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