Written by Jenny’s father, Bob Gibbs
Jenny was born, with her twin sister Becky, on Dec. 5th, 1974. They were 4 years younger than their brother Randy. The girls were fun (and quite a bit of work) from the start, but it was when they reached about two years old that they realized they had a constant playmate. From then on, life got easier. Although fraternal twins, they became so close that they even had a little language of their own. They started playing school at about four years old, and it wasn’t until Junior High that we saw the implications of that love for school.
Twin-sister Becky, Jenny and mother Sandy.
The girls were always easy for us to tell apart physically, but it soon became apparent that they had different personalities as well. Jenny was the loudest, the most demanding and the most accident prone of the two. We found out early that she was a breath holder. When Jenny got hurt or angry, she would wail for about 5 seconds and then go silent. It was the silence that used to frighten us, for we knew the next thing she would do was pass out.
Jenny also was diagnosed with lazy eye and later was found to have a visual problem that essentially gave her vision in only one eye. She seldom complained about this, and we think many people never realized she had a problem.
School was Jenny’s first love, and she thrived on all aspects of the experience. She made friends easily, and loved to be around other people. Like most twins, Jenny always assumed that Becky would be included in the group and we can’t remember a time when this wasn’t true.
When Jenny was going into 2nd grade, we moved to a resort in northern Wisconsin, called Bear Trail Lodge. New school, new friends, new every thing, and she didn’t miss a step. Jenny helped at the resort, joined the Brownies, fished, swam, x-country skied, and played with our two dogs and cat. The cat was Jenny’s, and her love of animals was evident from that time on.
After two years in Wisconsin, we moved back to the Twin Cities and Jenny enrolled at Sunset Hill Elementary in Wayzata. Again, she loved school, and had no trouble integrating into an entirely new environment.
Jenny and Randy
It was about this time that Jenny joined the Mach Three Flyers Swim Club. This was to be a pivotal point in her life. From that point on, there was school and friends, and there was swimming and friends. Besides competitive swimming, Jenny competed in synchronized swimming, softball and track. Jenny excelled at everything she did, and she always gave 100%.
When it came time to choose a college, the girls were certain they wanted to go together. Becky had scholarship offers from several schools, but after a recruiting trip to LSU we knew where they would be going. Six years later, Jenny had two college degrees and a future husband.
Since Chip (Jenny’s future husband) was younger, Jenny finished her Master’s degree while Chip finished his Bachelor’s. However, Chip was not finished with his education. He had been accepted at LSU’s Medical School in New Orleans, and that is where Jenny and Chip moved. During the four years of medical school, Jenny worked for an ad agency called Keating Magee. She was loved by everyone she worked with, and soon became the unofficial social director of the company.
In 2003, Jenny and Chip moved to Birmingham where Chip began his residency at UAB. Jenny got a job with Southern Progress and they settled into life as an orthopedic resident and his wife. Life was not complete without their pets, Buck (a Persian cat) and Ruby (a golden retriever). Jenny loved these animals like they were her children, and she cared for them with all her heart.
Whenever Chip got time off, they would all pack into the car and head to Baton Rouge, or to his family’s farm in Missouri. Jenny and Chip would fly to Minneapolis or San Jose a few times a year to be with Jenny’s relatives as well. Family members would go to visit them in Birmingham as much as they could too.
Time went by, and as the last year of Chip’s residency approached, they decided to try and have a baby. When Jenny found out in March that she was pregnant she seemed very happy, and all their friends and family were so excited too! Unfortunately, Jenny had a difficult pregnancy and was sick for most of the first seven months, and also developed Bell’s palsy that lasted a couple of months. As her due date approached, we made plans to come and stay for the first three weeks after Graham’s birth. On Nov. 1st, 2007, Graham Gibbs Bankston was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham. Everybody was so proud and excited.
Jenny was a real champ during delivery, but she struggled a bit with nursing and was reluctant to take Graham from the house for the first few weeks. She was also adjusting to not working, not getting much sleep, and having to care for her newborn. Other than that, things seemed normal and Graham got easier to care for as the weeks went by.
Then, out of the blue, on Dec. 19th, 2007, Jenny purchased a gun at a sporting goods store in Birmingham and at about 7:00 pm, she went to the backyard and took Graham’s life and then her own.
We are so devastated and shocked by this tragedy that it was a real struggle to write this story. We hope that somehow it might inspire new mothers to seek help and treatment before something like this happens to them. We also want to thank our son Randy, Brian (Becky’s husband) and Chip for their help and support as we try to return some normalcy to our lives.
We are left with many great memories and the chance to help other families avoid having to go through what we are. With your help, Jenny’s Light can make a difference.