'The unofficial grandmother of Destin': After turning 90, Geneva Gibbs remembers Destin

Jessica Coker

Destin's Geneva "Ginny" Gibbs really knows how to celebrate a birthday in style.

Celebrating her 90th on April 24, the spitfire granny has been a Destin resident since 1952, when she and her husband, Frank, moved to the Emerald Coast with their two young daughters in tow.

Remembering it like it was just yesterday, Ginny told The Log the first thing she said when she and her family arrived in Destin was, 'Where the heck have you brought us?'"

"I thought we were driving to the end of the world!" said Ginny. "I was used to California, Washington, D.C., larger places than Destin and it threw me for a loop."

Ginny added that she quickly grew accustomed to — even fell in love with Destin as time went on.

"Once we started to settle down here, I fell in love with Destin," said Ginny. "My family fell in love with Destin too. I can't imagine living anywhere else now."

Her husband, Master Sergeant Frank Gibbs, was sent to Destin in the 1950s to be the caretaker of the Infantry Center Rest Camp on special duty assignment from Fort Benning, Ga. The couple and their two daughters lived at what has become the Destin Army Recreation Center in a four-bedroom cabin for more than five years.  

Frank’s job was to manage, clean and do renovations to the establishment. While he was in charge, he added several new cabins, screened porches, a playground and moved the gate to its current location on Calhoun Avenue.

“There was no such thing as Benning Drive … My husband said why not name it Benning after the Army post,” Ginny said.

In the years to come she worked as a mother, wife and homemaker, volunteering at the small, two-room schoolhouse and organizing activities like Easter Egg Hunts for local children.

Her beloved husband passed away after 70 years of marriage in 2010. Now Ginny tells The Log that she's lived more than a full life, and couldn't ask for anything else.

"I don’t care how it changes, grows, whatever; this has always been such a sweet city and it always will be to me," said Ginny.

According to Gibbs' friend and caretaker, Marie, Ginny is "the unofficial grandmother of Destin."

"We can't go anywhere — Walmart, Publix — without it taking us 10 minutes to get in the door because Grandmother has to stop and kiss and hug all the babies and little kids along the way," Marie said.

Ginny tells it this way.

"I love all creatures. Well, as long as they aren't fussin' and a fightin'. . . babies, kids and even animals."