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Published January 05 2011

Fargo’s ‘Rock Man’ Tibert dies at age 77

James Tibert, owner of J.T. Rock Shop in Fargo, died Monday of heart failure. He was 77.

Tibert came into the public eye in 1996 after two men were arrested on charges that they conspired to rob and kill him.

One of the men, Adrian Spath, was convicted of conspiring to rob and kill Tibert. The man’s brother, William Spath, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of conspiring to commit theft.

The plan was foiled after police were tipped off by a girlfriend of one of the men.

Three years later, Tibert again was targeted when a Moorhead man, Ken Lura, stabbed him in the back. Tibert had his back to Lura when he felt a pain in his back and realized he’d been stabbed.

Despite the media attention the incidents received, that’s not what friends of the Grafton, N.D., native will remember most about Tibert. Nicknamed “The Rock Man,” Tibert had a passion for working with stones and gems and a deep knowledge of the subject. He also loved sharing that passion with young people.

“Any kind of curiosity that young people had, he was always very good at trying to support that interest,” said Eunice Johnston, who, like Tibert, was a member of the Lake Agassiz Rock Club. “It was not unusual to see a whole bunch of kids” at Tibert’s Fourth Avenue North store.

“He was a very special person,” Johnston said. “He will be missed.”

Tibert’s son, Bryan, remembers his father as a “people person.”

“He was very compassionate for people,” Bryan Tibert said. “He always made people feel welcome.”

He said his father had friends from “all different walks of life.”

The members of the local rock club are among those friends. Johnston said they have a meeting scheduled for today. It’s an appointment they intend to keep.

“And,” Johnston said, “we’re going to meet because J. T. would want us to meet.”

Visitation will be Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Fargo. The memorial service will be at 7 p.m. in the church following the visitation.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734