Willard J. Dibble
EAST BERNE — A hardened farm worker in his youth and a dependable mechanic, Willard Dibble was tender with his family ties.
Mr. Dibble and his wife, Dorothy, kept their children in close contact with their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, visiting a different relative nearly every weekend. After Mr. Dibble retired, they visited more and forged stronger relationships with cousins long unseen. The Dibbles rode in a car with Mr. Dibble’s sister and brother-in-law, driving up and down the East Coast from Maine to North Carolina.
Willard John Dibble died on Sunday, March 23, 2014, at the nursing home he had been living in of natural causes, according to his wife, Dorothy Dibble. He was 81.
He was born on July 10, 1932 to Orson and Goldie (née Stevens) Dibble in the Town of Maryland, in Otsego County. His family moved first to Altamont, then to East Berne, where Mr. Dibble’s father worked on a dairy farm. He peddled ice for the cabins and summerhouses along the lakes in Berne, requiring the blocks harvested in the winter to be used for refrigeration.
Mr. Dibble went to high school in Altamont and got a job around the age of 20 as a truck driver for Orsini Brothers Trucking, Mrs. Dibble said. No longer working on the farm, Mr. Dibble was drafted into the United States Army during the Korean War. He trained at Fort Devens in Massachusetts and became a medic in the infantry. He saw action on the front lines, his wife said, and didn’t speak much about his experience except to say it was cold.
After a year and a half overseas, Mr. Dibble returned home and worked with his father on the East Berne dairy farm. He was driving a jeep full of milk cans in the summer when he saw Mrs. Dibble with her siblings, sitting on their lawn.
“He stopped and asked if I didn’t have anything better to do,” she said. They were married on May 5, 1958 in the parsonage of the Lutheran church in Berne.
Mr. Dibble worked outside all day on farms as a young, newly married man. He was 6 feet, 2 inches tall and strong. “He was a meat-and-potato man,” said Mrs. Dibble.
Mr. Dibble took a job in Valatie, in Columbia County, several months later, where he worked on another dairy farm. He and Mrs. Dibble later moved to a job on a beef farm in Garrison, in Putnam County. From there, they would visit the Hilltowns every other weekend.
“He was just a farmer at heart and, wherever the jobs came up, that’s where he went,” said Mrs. Dibble. Their first car was a dull green Chrysler, she said, which he fixed and shined, as he did for many cars that followed.
The Dibbles had two sons while they moved to different farm jobs. They settled in East Berne, though, near family and in a house that needed repair work. Mr. Dibble’s Aunt Mabel Palmatier, a carpenter, helped him restore the house.
Mr. Dibble worked for Paddock Pools before his final job as a laborer with the Albany County Highway Department, where he worked for about two decades. He was at one point responsible for mowing the cemeteries in Berne and Reidsville, Mrs. Dibble said. He enjoyed mowing and repairing mowers, which he did at no charge for neighbors.
“He taught the boys working on cars and fixing lawn mowers,” said Mrs. Dibble. “He was a good dad.”
His son, Richard, trained to be a mechanic in high school and is now a master mechanic at a Volkswagen dealership, Mrs. Dibble said.
“He showed him how to pack his clothes,” she said of Mr. Dibble instructing Richard before he left for the military, “rolling his socks and underwear to pack it so it wouldn’t get all wrinkled.”
Mr. Dibble was attached to his grandchildren, his wife said. When they were young, he would tell them that he couldn’t read; then he’d give them books, allowing them to pretend to read to him. He listened to his grandchildren imagine the stories and look at the pictures.
Even after he first broke a hip in 2006, Mr. Dibble kept mowing. He had a stroke in 1992, at the age of 59, which stopped him from working for the county.
“If you could get in the car and ride, he was happy,” said Mrs. Dibble. The couple traveled to see Amish people in Berlin, Ohio.
“He loved horses,” said Mrs. Dibble. “He heard the horses clopping down the street, just the old way of life. It was more of what he was used to growing up.”
Willard J. Dibble is survived by his wife, Dorothy; his children, Willard Jr. and his wife, Marie, Richard and his wife, Donna, and Edward; his grandchildren, Jennifer Hearn, Charley Dibble, Daniel Dibble, Katie Dibble, and Amber Dibble; his great-grandchildren, Madison Hearn and Hailey Dibble; and his sister, Elizabeth Chelelli.
His brother, Minard Dibble, died before him, as did his sister, Beatrice Burke.
Calling hours will be held from 5 to 7 p.m., and the service will follow, at the Fredendall Funeral Home, 199 Main Street in Altamont. Interment will take place in the spring.
Mourners may go online to www.fredendallfuneralhome.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Albany Community Hospice, 445 New Karner Rd, Albany, NY 12205.