Deceased paper carrier touched many lives

Tribune Chronicle Circulation Manager Bill Waugaman shared sad news this week.

His friend, longtime Tribune Chronicle carrier and former Circulation Department District Manager Eric “Rick” Gibbs of Vernon Township, passed away Aug. 24. He was only 65.

Undoubtedly, many of our readers have come in contact with Mr. Gibbs, although it’s quite likely many may have never even known it. You see, he and his wife, Merilyn, have been delivering Tribune Chronicle newspapers for nearly 38 years. There’s a good chance he has delivered your paper at some point throughout the years because together, the couple delivered somewhere between 300 and 350 papers every night.

And I mean EVERY night.

When Bill told me that Rick had died about 11 p.m. Aug. 24, he was incredulous that the Gibbs family arrived on time about four hours later to pick up their papers and deliver the route. They knew readers were expecting their morning newspaper, and they didn’t want to let them down.

Even more amazing is the fact that they’ve never let their subscribers down. Ever.

In their 38 years as newspaper carriers here, Bill said he never can recall them failing to deliver their routes, which have covered geographical areas ranging from Eastwood Mall in Niles, far north to Orangeville village.

Certainly (hopefully), newspaper subscribers appreciate and understand the dedication it takes for our delivery people to leave their warm beds in the wee hours of the morning — often bringing their young children with them — to pick up their bundles and churn through the deep dark routes of rural Trumbull County or under the street lamps of downtown city blocks making their deliveries. And no one knows better than the Gibbs family that all this happens year round, whether it’s a steamy, sweaty type of night, or pouring rain or your average run-of-the-mill icy, frigid northeast Ohio winter night.

When their now-grown children were small, Rick and Merilyn brought them along many nights.

“They rode on the route with us when we didn’t have babysitters,” Merilyn recalled last week. And today their youngest daughter, Lizzy, who is now 26, is filling the void delivering the routes.

The family delayed the funeral while their oldest son, who now lives in Minnesota, and his wife celebrated the birth of their second child, also last week.

Of course, if it weren’t for Rick Gibbs’ dedication to our readers, I wouldn’t be writing about him here.

But when I read the obituary his family submitted for publication, I realized there was so much more to this story.

An inventor of sorts, Rick used his ingenuity to amuse his children — whether it be making shark fins to put in the pond, monster feet to leave footprints in the snow or upside-down bicycles that his kids could ride around.

And after the kids were grown, he began amusing his grandchildren, Merilyn said this week when I called to offer my condolences. A granddaughter, who just turned 13, is a great artist, Merilyn relayed.

“I don’t know whether she gets that from her father or from her grandfather,” she said with a chuckle.

He had a love for animals, once adopting a baby possum after its mother was killed by a passing motorist, and later a baby raccoon, whose mother suffered the same demise.

And then there was his affection for bears.

His free spirit and love of life was reflected well in the character of his obituary, crafted by his son.

In lieu of flowers, the obit said, the family requests that you do something cool. Live as Rick lived. Write your own legend. Rescue an animal. Or, make a contribution to

Merilyn said she’s been amazed by the outpouring of condolences from the community following Rick’s passing, but given his free spirit, love and dedication, it seems to me that outpouring of love should be expected.