Frank Gipson, former Hilo player, prep coach
Frank Gipson, a Hawai'i-Hilo Hall of Fame basketball player and championship high school basketball coach, died Monday at the North Hawai'i Community Hospital in Waimea. Gipson, who suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, was 57.
Gipson was a four-year point guard for the Vulcans from 1971-75 under coach Jimmy Yagi, and helped lead the school's basketball program from a club league to a four-year collegiate sport.
"He really upgraded the standard of our basketball program," said former UH-Hilo athletic director Ramon Goya of the 5-foot-9 left-hander from Chicago. "He was one of the first Vulcans. His work ethic was just phenomenal. He was an outstanding leader and super competitor. He was a coach's dream."
After graduation, Gipson coached several Big Island prep championship teams at Laupahoehoe, Waiakea, Hawai'i Preparatory Academy and Konawaena.
Gipson, who retired from United Airlines, was praised not only for his coaching ability and his desire to keep kids in school, but his generosity, as he routinely paid for summer camps out of his own pocket.
"The community of Hilo was very fortunate," Goya said. "He was a real good role model for them. He gave so much and cared so much for the kids. He participated in the Vulcan basketball camps for years. To Frank, the most important thing was that the kids really learned lessons in life."
Gipson was inducted to the UH-Hilo Hall of Fame in 1997.
"He had so much respect for the people of Hawai'i," said his wife, Donella. "In return, he got respect himself. He enjoyed working with the kids. I was with him for 23 years ... basketball was very important to him. At times it was a challenge, but it was worth it."
Gipson was born Oct. 13, 1948, in Chicago. He is survived by Donella; son, Jonathan, and daughters, Justina Kekaualua and Kimberly Gipson.
Services are scheduled to be held in Chicago on Wednesday, in Kona on April 20, and in Hilo on April 21. Dodo Mortuary is handling the Big Island services.