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November-December 2014

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In Memoriam: Harold Dibble (1915–2014)

Harold Dibble, of Angola, New York, passed away on 28 June of this year at the age of ninety-eight. A quiet, unassuming man and good friend to many in the mineral world, he rarely spoke about himself or his mineral and gem collections. It was not his nature to reveal new mineral purchases nor to show them off to fellow collectors. It wasn't until we got to know him better that we discovered he had quite a depth of mineralogical knowledge as well as a superb collection. But perhaps more than anything else, he will be remembered in the mineral community for his philanthropy and willingness to share his collection and knowledge with others. This became evident to us in 2001 when we received an unexpected phone call from him saying he wished to donate some specimens to the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, and if we were in the area, could we stop and pick them up. A mutual time was agreed upon, and we planned to visit him just prior to attending the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium that spring. Harold invited us into his basement, where his collection was displayed in both wall and floor cases. When asked which minerals had been selected for the donation, Harold replied, “Just pick out anything you want or need for the museum and that will be fine with me.” We were both stunned and hesitant to take any action, so we asked again, and his reply was the same.

The first specimen selected was a large cluster of gem aquamarine crystals on feldspar from Pakistan, and Harold smiled and nodded. Next came an 18-inch-long doubly terminated, gemmy spodumene crystal from Afghanistan, then a large blue gem topaz, elbaites on matrix, and many more, totaling 106 in all. In addition, a superb collection of 23 worldwide fluorite gemstones faceted by Art Grant was given, as well as a spectacular faceted calcite weighing 1,017 carats from Balmat, New York, a gem that undoubtedly was dear to his heart, since he named it “The Doris” after his wife. In 1992 and 1994, the Dibbles also gave several cut gems to the Smithsonian Institution, among them an astounding 3,965-carat blue fluorite from Illinois, known as “Big Blue,” and a second calcite from Balmat, New York, weighing 1,865 carats. Harold also made several donations of minerals to the Harvard Mineralogical Museum.

Although Harold successfully ran two of the largest hardware stores in the Buffalo, New York, area, being a retail merchant was not his first vocation. He was educated in mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan and also took postgraduate courses there. However, he chose to follow his father into the hardware store business because it interested him more. Then, in 1942, Uncle Sam intervened, and Harold joined the U.S. Army. It was at that time he met and married Doris Isabel Gardner; their marriage lasted fifty-eight years. While in the military, Harold was initially assigned to the Fire Control Instrument Repair Division of the Ordnance Department, but he soon became the head instructor at the Ordnance School, Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Maryland, as well as a Technical Information Officer in charge of editing several publications.

The Dibbles had three daughters, and Doris eventually became a partner with Harold in their hardware business. Together, they had a busy life of family, friends, and travel to many mineral shows, including those in Tucson, Detroit, and Munich. Harold also attended the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium for well over twenty-five years and displayed some of his minerals and made presentations there. Upon retirement in 1991, Harold founded the Dibble Trust Fund (which is now closed) to support education in science and the arts, and he and Doris began several projects to spur interest in minerals and the local arts. One of those projects was a book he wrote titled Quartz: An Introduction to Crystalline Quartz, published in 2003. Harold's curiosity about minerals and how they formed was never sated; he always wanted to know more and strove to obtain that knowledge and pass it on to others. Harold enjoyed art as much as the minerals, and he produced a DVD titled Artistic Minerals: A Different Aspect of Minerals, which was ahead of its time in comparing elements of art and architecture to crystal forms and growths.

Harold Dibble's mineral gifts and support of the arts will live on and remind us of his generosity and many interests. It is probably best said in the words of the well-known quote of Lao Tzu, philosopher and poet of ancient China: “The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.”

Susan Robinson writes the artist series of articles for Rocks & Minerals.

Dr. George Robinson recently retired as curator at the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum in Houghton, Michigan.

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