Gabriel Chitt Dibbaywan (Willie Dibb) was born on 10th October 1926 in Bangkok. He was the eldest son of Gabriel Mawk Dibb and Maria Magdalene Sangwan Dibb. He had eight siblings; five brothers and three sisters.
He spent his early years in the house in Sathon district in Bangkok belonging to his maternal grandmother. In 1933, Willie entered Assumption School in Bangkok in the French Section (French was the teaching language) until the Education Department decreed in 1941 that foreign languages could only be taught in school for 2 hours per week and all text books had to be in Thai. That same year the original name “Dibb” was also officially changed to Dibbayawan to satisfy the Thai nationalistic fervor of the time.
Willie participated in football at school but was never picked to represent the school. However, he was very proud of his singing prowess as a treble (boy soprano) and one Christmas he sang a solo at midnight mass at Assumption Cathedral without the aid of a microphone. Unfortunately, his singing days were over far too soon when his voice broke at 9 years of age. Willie completed his education in 1943 attaining the certificate for secondary school (year 10 today).
As soon as he completed school, he had to help support his family as WWII was already well underway and his father moved the family away from Bangkok to Sriracha as it was deemed safer. One of his first jobs was as a teacher at Stella Maris School (later to become Darasmut School). Willie always reminisced about this period with fondness despite the hardship.
His father died in 1948, and at 21 Willie became de facto head of his family to support his mother and his siblings. Through necessity, Willie earned money any which way he could, which included fixing bicycles, buying tobacco in bulk and make cigarettes to sell, all the way through to distilling moonshine whisky. Willie also had quite a variety of interesting jobs which included working with the Thai silk baron, Jim Thomson, being the import manager at Kamol Sukosol Company where he purchased the latest gramophone records from overseas on behalf of the company. He later joined the Standard Vacuum Oil Company (Thailand) which was later to become Esso (Thailand).
Willie married Theresa Prida Vattanawit in 1953 and they had six children together. Three boys and three girls. At the time of the birth of their second child, a son in 1956, Willie was managing the Vientiane Office in Laos for the Standard Vacuum Oil. In 1962, he was sent to Australia by Esso for a few months and that gave him the idea of moving his family there which he finally did in 1973.
Life was no bed of roses in a new country with a young family of 6 children, but somehow Willie and Prida managed. He ended up returning to be in the employ of Esso Australia (he actually left Esso Thailand and worked elsewhere before emigrating to Australia). He retired from Esso in 1985 and then moved from Sydney to Brisbane. After retirement, Willie enjoyed travelling back to Thailand on several occasions as well as visiting several countries around the world. One of his favorite trips was in 1987 when he was in group of pilgrims travelling to Italy, France and The Holy Land in Israel.
Willie and Prida returned to live in Pattaya in 2008 and they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 2013. Willie was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) a few years ago and finally succumbed to the disease on 26th July 2017, nine months after celebrating his 90th birthday. He is survived by his wife, six children and fourteen grandchildren.
On August 3, 2017, Gabriel Chitt Dibbayawan was laid to rest at the St. Nikolaus church graveyard. The mass was held by bishop Silvio. Many people attended the funeral, as well as his children, his grandchildren and his wife.