Mary Kibling, who turns 100 this month, made lot of fans while ‘On the Move’

  • Mary Kibling in the living room of her home on Summit Street in Concord where she stills lives on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Mary Kibling looks up from her knittingin the living room of her home on Summit Street in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Mary Kibling in the living room of her home on Summit Street in Concord where she stills lives on Thursday, February 18, 2021. Kibling was knitting for her new great-grandson that was just born last week. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Mary Kibling in the living room of her home on Summit Street in Concord where she stills lives on Thursday, February 18, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 2/18/2021 4:18:02 PM

Mary Kibling tried to avoid the spotlight, preferring to point it toward anyone but herself.

Perhaps unsure about the legitimacy of her caller, she gave one word answers, one after another, and more than once mentioned that she had done nothing particularly extraordinary to warrant a newspaper article focusing on her life.

We’ll leave that up to the thousands of people Kibling touched while writing a regular column for the Monitor, called “On the Move.” Those same people might be interested to know that Kibling, who ended the column when she was 94, is about to turn 100 on Feb. 26.

She still lives on her own. She served in the Navy for three years. She learned to ski and snowshoe in her 70s, taught swimming, hiked all 48 of the state’s 4,000-foot mountains, wrote a pair of books about walking trails in the state, led tours through Australia, and on and on.

“I don’t think I am very exciting at this point in my life,” Kibling told me.

She stayed with me, though, remaining on the phone for 30 minutes, through bad connections and bad hearing and, with no warning, and a barrage of questions.

She knew the drill. That used to be Kibling’s job as a writer. Now, she was the focus, the writer who used to speak to a small city through her words.

She perked up and lowered her force field when asked about past jobs and activities. Suddenly, the words came quicker, her low, raspy voice rising a few decibels. She mentioned her coaching experience and her mountain climbing.

“I have done a lot,” Kibling said. “Outdoorsy and a serious hiker and skier, and I have worked as a secretary, I worked in a gift shop, for Rumford Travel, and I escorted groups to Australia in the ‘70s.”

She wrote feature stories about senior citizens and the activities they

had learned during retirement. She hustled, driving into her 90s to visit her subjects for face-to-face interviews and a better understanding and command of who and what she was writing about.

And as her writing for the Monitor blossomed into a weekly feature – she wrote for the paper for 18 years – her editors eventually insisted that she switch from a typewriter to a computer.

She swept aside the sheer terror involved, mustered some courage and took an adult class to learn how to use a laptop.

“A nightmare,” Kibling said. “I didn’t like most of modern technology then. I still don’t.”

She wrote about a retired couple who taught people with disabilities to ski. She wrote about seniors who played pickleball – a combo of tennis and badminton – at the Green Street Community Center.

In time, she became wonderfully dry and funny. She told me not to write a “dumb” story, which she worried about the last time the Monitorwrote about her years back, at the close of her writing career.

“It was a wonderful story,” she said.

Kibling said she interviewed around 400 people for her columns. She said people would stop her on the street, recognizing her from a past interview. She got stopped by people she’d never met. She received countless ideas about people who had discovered new passions after retirement.

“I was flattered by the attention,” Kibling said.

She’s knitting a lot these days. A sweater for great grandchild No. 6, a boy. A pair of mittens for great grandchild No. 7. She has eight grandchildren. Her husband, whom she met in the Navy, died nearly 40 years ago, at the age of 65.

She never married again, but she got busy living and learning later in life. It became her column’s theme during its long run.

Her daughter, 68-year-old Jenny Timbas, lives close by and relayed this treasure:

“She came to my house to watch Hamilton,” Timbas said. “She couldn’t understand it because it was all in hip-hop.”

Kibling’s solution?

“She read the Hamilton book, those huge books,” Timbas said. “She loved it.”

Kibling has slowed lately. She misses writing sometimes, but “I don’t have the energy for it anymore,” she said, adding that the only reason she stopped writing for the Monitor was because she could no longer drive.

Other poignant thoughts surfaced. Kibling has kept a journal the past 10 years, four notebooks jammed with reminders and thoughts for the book she always thought she’d write. She was going to call it “Surprises,” but said she won’t finish.

“It won’t get done,” Kibling said. “It was going to be about getting old, things you didn’t expect.”

She stopped there. No elaborating, no sliver of added information to help make the plot clearer.

It became clear that Kibling still misses writing, a treasured element in her life, a skill she said she was born with. Friends and admirers told her at a recent Christmas party that her column – those adventures introducing people and their new lives to their neighbors – was sorely missed.

It’s what she did for nearly two decades, during her own retirement years. All the compliments and feedback she received, both during and after her career, made her feel uneasy, but she heard the words, and they made her feel good.

“It was surprising that a stranger would stop me on the street,” Kibling said. “I don’t get on the street anymore, and I don’t think I’m worth writing about.

“But I’ll say you calling me to talk was very flattering.”And long overdue. Happy 100th, Mary.


Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.



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