Cover photo for Michael W. Gibler's Obituary
Michael W. Gibler Profile Photo

Michael W. Gibler

d. August 1, 2020

Michael “Mike” Gibler, age 72, of Athens, IL, passed away on Saturday, August 1, 2020 at his residence with his stunning wife by his side.

He was born April 10, 1948 in Wabash, Indiana, the son of William and Dorothy Gibler.

Mike married Dierdre of August of 1969, they have three children, Kristen Ritz of Philadelphia, Erin Gibler (fiancé Sean Farrell) of Naperville, and Daniel (wife Ashleigh) Gibler of Normal.  He married Denise Hackman in November of 2001.  Denise’s daughter, Ashley, shared a special relationship with Mike.

Mike is survived by Denise, the love of his life; all of their children; grandchildren (Haleigh, Madelyn, and Katie Appledorn); two siblings, Noree (husband Steve) of Rolling Meadows, and Dave Gibler of Roselle; and several nieces and nephews. 

He was preceded in death by his brothers, Bill and Tim; and his parents.

Mike attended Illinois State University and graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in English.

He taught junior high English for 12 years in Mt. Prospect, Illinois.  During that time Mike also drove tour buses and became highly involved in organizing union labor.  Mike realized that this was his true passion and began his illustrious career with Illinois Education Association that lasted over 3 decades. Mike “retired” from the IEA in 2008. Mike quickly became bored with retirement and started looking for something to do. He obtained his CDL and was an OTR truck driver for a couple of years. However, he couldn’t bear being away from his wife for such long periods of time so he gave that up when the IEA came calling for help. It seems they were desperate for the Gibster’s help and he was more than happy to lend a hand. Mike worked for the IEA on a contractual basis until his illness prevented him from doing so. Mike was a tireless advocate for all employees in the schools that he served. Mike was a fierce supporter of education and knew that a child’s success in the classroom was dependent upon having qualified an valued employees. Not only did he fight for the teachers, he also worked tirelessly for all school employees to cultivate the best possible learning environment for our children.

And when it came to children, there were none he loved more than his grandchildren. He was known as “Poppy” to them. Ever the teacher, Mike spent hours helping with schoolwork, volunteering at schools, getting them to and from practices, and being a proud Poppy at games and events. He had even begun to teach his oldest granddaughter how to drive. These lessons included how to do doughnuts!

Never on to be idle, Mike had many other interests; most of which involved sipping bourbon. He and Denise loved to go camping, especially to Michigan. Mike learned how to play the harmonica and had a large collection of them. He practiced his skills at various area establishments that sell bourbon. Mike was an avid NASCAR fan. He went to 2 races every year. Mike looked forward to the races and spent a week getting the camper ready to go. Mike almost always had a friend or family member go to the race with him but also had his “racing” family as well. The races were known for their crazy antics, BBQ’s, and bourbon consumption. At one race, Elvis (Mike in costume) made an appearance dancing on top of a bus! It was so wildly popular that Elvis continued to made some encore performances!

Mike didn’t know very many strangers. He loved to talk to others. He expected honesty and valued integrity. He appreciated differing opinions and the opportunities to debate them. And bourbon was available, it simply made those debates more entertaining!

Sadly, due to Covid, there will not be an opportunity for a public celebration of life. A private family celebration is planned. Due to this, the family asks that all of Mike’s friends and family who aren’t able to be at the private celebration to simply gather together in your family or friend groups and raise a glass in his honor.

Mott & Henning Funeral Home is assisting the family. On-line condolences can be shared at



  1. My deepest condolence. I’m so sorry I”m unable to come.

  2. My heartfelt condolences to Denise and their entire family. I’ll forever picture Mike with his great smile, laughing and sharing all of his stories. You are all in my prayers.

  3. Wonderful Wonderful man who was a true educator advocate and all around great man! Thanks for the coffee, donuts, and advice, Mike!!❤️❤️ I couldn’t have gotten through 2003/2004 without your guidance! My condolences to your family that you loved so much!

  4. Denise and Family,

    We love you and so sorry for your loss. We will be praying for you and the rest of the family. We are with you in spirit. Love you, Denise!!!

  5. Denise
    You have my deepest sympathy and share your loss. Lots of good memories of the IEA years.
    Blessings, Violet

  6. What a great guy!! I had the privilege to serve on a bargaining team with him, it was fascinating to watch him work the room. When he spoke, everybody stopped what they were doing and him. So sorry for your loss! He will be dearly missed!!!

  7. Denise, my heart breaks for you and your family as you bid farewell to this wonderful man. I know from my own experience that he will always be with you, loving and watching over you. God bless! Sue

  8. Heartfelt sympathy, caring thoughts, prayers. Mike was a true treasure. He was always professional, understanding, thoroughly detailed, and added personality to our committee meetings. Wishing the family and friends: a song in your hearts; sunshine after the clouds; a rainbow after the rain; cherished memories; peace.

  9. I am so sorry for your loss. I enjoyed working with Mike as our Uniserv Director in Bloomington. Mike was a valued member guiding our negotiating team in Unit 5 when I was a rep and UFEA president.

  10. I’m so sorry to see this….Mike was one of the best UniServ Directors in IEA. His knowledge, passion and sense of humor made him irreplaceable. He made a difference.

    Sending peace and comfort to the family.

  11. Denise, very sorry for your loss.

  12. Dear Mike’s Family,

    I am so sad to learn of Mike’s passing. I had worked with Mike while the Chair of the IEA-Region 14 Council. Also as a member of the Pontiac HS EA I had worked with Mike on negotiations and grievances. Mike was a wonderful mentor and assisted many of us in the locals he served. He was a friend and always had kind words and encouragement.

    May your memories of Mike give you comfort during this time.

  13. Let me offer sincere condolences to Denise and Family. Mike was a true educator advocate. On behalf of the IEA-Retired Abraham Lincoln Chapter, our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time.

  14. Denise, I am saddened to know this Superhero has bid us farewell. I have such loving memories of Mike. I send you and your family my condolences. Hugs!

  15. Denise and family, my condolences. I remember Mike’s help with the Unit Five Education Association when he worked in Bloomington. Keep the good memories. Be well.

  16. Mike was a great advocate who was passionate about seeing IEA succeed in representing its membership and a leader among his colleagues. I remember very well his tireless efforts in behalf of IEA’s efforts to bring affordable quality health care coverage to all our members across the state. I valued his insights and his friendship. He will be missed by many of us who were privileged to work with him.

    Ken Swanson, IEA Past President

  17. Denise, my heart aches for you. God bless.

  18. Denise and family,
    I’m so very sorry to hear about Mike. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.
    I enjoyed working with Mike at IEA/SEA, while I worked at the district. He was a true professional and all around nice guy!
    Marianne Seiz

  19. Erin and Dan,

    Sorry for your loss. Prayers, peace and comfort to you and yours.

  20. Denise and family my sincerest condolences to all of you. Mike came to us (Edwardsville Education Association) in our deepest need. I quickly nicknamed him “Magic Mike” and he would blush a little every time. He accomplished so many great things for our union and brought us closer together. He will he deeply missed by all! His charismatic personality will forever shine down to always bring a smile when his name is mentioned or memory shared. Denise, he loved you deeply and always talked about his family. Prayers and hugs to all of you! 🙏🏼❤️

  21. Denise and family, my deepest sympathies on the loss of your loved one, Mike. He was a true friend and supporter. May you be surrounded with love and peace.

  22. Denise and family, my thoughts and prayers are with you at this time of loss.

  23. Denise & family, very saddened to learn of Mike’s passing. Sending love and prayers.

  24. You have my deepest sympathy. My late husband Dennis Lee worked with Mike at Prairie Trucking and after they retired they met regularly for coffee. Dennis always enjoyed talking with Mike. Take care.

  25. Dear Gibler Family,
    We first met at the Newman Catholic Center in Normal. Kristin babysat for my children, Thad, Heather, & Heidi as they were growing up. I was Kristin’s sponsor for Confirmation. I even did some sewing for her when she was part of the flag routine group in high school.
    Then I went back to teaching in Bloomington. There was unrest my first year and Mike stood by me as I crossed the picket line. Later in my career he supported five of us first grade teachers in negotiations. He always remained calm, yet personal. We depended on him for many years.
    I am so sorry Mike has left us so early in his wonderful life! He left lasting inspiration on so many people!
    Blessings on you all as you seek peace!

  26. Dear Denise and Family,

    I was so sorry to read of the recent passing of your husband, Mike. I had read earlier on Facebook that Ashley had suffered a loss of someone close to her. I now understand. I enjoyed reading his obituary and the tributes written about him. He sounded like a very vibrant person and enjoyed your time together. You will miss him.

    With sympathy,

  27. I am sorry to hear of Mike’s passing. He and I spent many hours together, mostly as adversaries. I enjoyed his honesty and commitment to reaching an agreement. I know that his efforts prevented tragic labor trouble for Bloomington Public Schools. Condolences to his family. It was a privilege to know him.

  28. I’m so sorry for your loss,so I’m sending prayers for you and your Family.
    I will never forget him or you
    I remember you both used to come in Grant’s cafe in Athens and eat breakfast.

  29. Mike and I had an incredible run representing teachers and school employees in Decatur. His passion for doing the right thing was exciting. He was amazed while listening to “farm talk” one evening about “walking beans”. Mike pictured someone literally “walking” a bean. What fun we had pacing and plotting. Blessings my friend.

  30. Mike was such a great person. Funny as hell! We had a lot of good times at the races in Michigan. Elvis (Mike) always made an appearance and he always had us laughing and dancing. You will be missed Mike and the races will never be the same without you. Denise and family, I am so very sorry for your loss. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you and I send many (((hugs))) to you all. Mike would always talk about his family at the races so I felt like I knew all of you. We will always keep Mike’s memory alive at the races and he will never ever be forgotten.

  31. Mr. Gibler was the nicest guy! He was a true professional, yet so very human. He was very kind and helpful when I was a new teacher to this area. He offered me the best advice about working in education that I continue to follow now 15 years later! My sympathy to his family and close friends.

  32. Denise-sending you heartfelt condolences on this sad news. Mike was such a wonderful person with a heart of gold. He will be missed by so many, know that you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. We did share some really fun times with music, food and bourbon. Blessing to you all.

  33. Denise and family, I am so sorry for your loss. I was shocked when I saw the obituary in the paper. I adored Mike and had many interactions with him in district 186. He was funny and easy to be around. In every interaction we had, we were on opposite sides of the table. But once business was over, we got along like peas and carrots. His smile will be missed and I will miss random conversations with him on deep topics that he asked your opinion about or light topics like Las Vegas. Peace and love to your family.

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