Irene Stephens Gibbons Scholarship

Mary Alice, daughter, and Suzanne Jackson, granddaughter, established this scholarship to honor Irene’s faith in education as a means to a better life. It is designated for a USAO student.

Gibbons was born in 1908 in Nocona, Texas. She was the oldest of five children. Enterprising from her earliest years, she gathered Polk salad, carried it four miles to town and sold greens house to house.

Her father was a rancher and lost most of what he had during the agricultural depression of the 1920s. He turned to truck farming to make a living. Irene, mindful of her fair skin, refused to work in the fields and at 12 she started her own dairy business. She borrowed the money from her Polk salad customers and pasteurized the first milk sold in Nocona. Her milk route supplied her family with food and clothing.

Irene was an ambitious child and was fearless. She liked fast horses, rode bareback and jumped the split rail fences and creeks of her town.

When she graduated high school, she took five dollars and her train ticket and went to Fort Worth believing she could earn her education. She fell on disappointment and ended up working as a maid in a mansion. Friends from home heard her plight and found her a position in a wealthy home teaching the children to ride and play games. With the money she saved, she attended the teacher’s college at Durant. She taught at Tishomingo after graduation.

She married her childhood love, Roy Gibbons. They came to Oklahoma in 1930. Roy was a cook. He and Irene ran the Faith Café, first in Anadarko, then in Duncan.

Irene saw opportunities in farming for her younger brothers in Anadarko and encouraged them to leave Texas – which they did. She helped her younger sister Oleta attend Oklahoma A&M College (now OSU).

Irene had a strong and generous spirit. During the time she and Roy operated the Faith Café, they always had a soup kitchen, sent meals to the sick and offered the ministers meal tickets so they could have their lunches in town and take their families to Sunday dinner.

Roy and Irene closed the doors of their restaurant in 1954 to pursue farming in Verden. Irene used her business acumen to encourage her neighbors to go forward in farming and buy land of their own. She participated in politics so she could help young people in the community find jobs in government. She was ambitious for herself, for her family and for her neighbors. Her joy in the success of others was boundless.

She was a member of the Eastern Star and the First Baptist Church of Verden.

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