Gibson’s interests featured versatility

VERSATILE – that word describes the interests of Richard “Hoot” Gibson, who died early Wednesday.

His writing reveals that he covered sports of all kinds and on many levels. Whether it was a Super Bowl, an All-Star Game, a college football game or a high school game, Rich enjoyed it, and this was evident in his writing.

And then there was music. His “Left Lane” column showed how attuned he was to the music world.

His coverage of major league and championship games helped him to accumulate frequent-flier miles, enabling him to indulge in another of his interests – travel.

Rich, who was in countries around the Mediterranean while in the U.S. Navy, has traveled numerous other places in recent years, but a particularly memorable one was Liverpool because of the Beatles. When we went to Ohio State football games, I heard all sorts of sports stories and also about his travels, especially about Penny Lane and the other Beatles sites.

Those trips to the Buckeye games also revealed his willingness to laugh at himself. He’d chuckle when he told about an incident in one of Richard “Lefty” Hall’s classes at St. Clairsville High School. Hall asked the teenage Rich, “How do you pronounce the capital of Kentucky: Loo-EE-ville or Lewisville?” Rich picked the first pronunciation, and the answer, of course, is really Frankfort.

He loved to read newspapers. Although he did check newspapers online, his real enjoyment was reading an actual newspaper and turning its pages. When either of us would go on trips, we’d pick up out-of-town newspapers and leave them on each other’s desks on our return.

On our Buckeye trips, we’d often stop in Cambridge or Columbus so he could obtain as many out-of-town newspapers as possible.

A true professional in his writing, Rich paid attention to detail. In fact, when my late husband Cal retired, he pointed out that he was pleased that Rich was continuing his association with The Times Leader, noting that he had hand-picked him as a sports writer in the 1980s.

Rich, on Cal’s death, wrote a column, noting that his first encounter with Cal “was at a local restaurant. Where else?”

Noting he learned numerous lessons while working with Cal, Rich pointed out, “Cal made it crystal clear from day one. ‘Never -not even at the risk of missing the top of the first – never go to an assignment on an empty stomach.'”

Rich went on to write: “And so it was. We generally enjoyed dessert and missed the bottom of the first as well.”

True to his early “journalistic” lesson, the St. Clairsville High School and Harding College (Ark.) graduate believed in eating good food. It was traditional for us to stop at Champps sport bar after games.

Jean Davies and Nancy Mumley accompanied us to one OSU-Michigan game, and the Buckeyes were victorious. Champps was crowded with Buckeye fans stomping their feet and singing. Rich might have been slightly embarrassed with the enthusiasm of the three women somewhat older than he was, but he smiled anyway.

Rich wasn’t especially punctual when we went to OSU games, and sometimes, the Best Damn Band in the Land came out of the tunnel onto the field when we were entering the press box.

He was interested in people, and this interest was reciprocated as shown at Beallsville’s mini Rally For Life Assembly early this year. Lou “Scooter” Tolzda, chairman of the event, announced the program was being expanded this year to provide assistance beyond the normal scope of cancer patients residing in Beallsville or related to Beallsville students. Rich was the first out-of-area recipient, and Blue Devils coach Dave Caldwell praised his “positive spin” when covering high school athletes.

Rich himself worked to help others, being enthusiastic in the Ohio Valley Christian Soldiers’ fund-raising effort.

His faithful companion after his late hours at The Times Leader was his cat. I’m not sure how much the feline enjoyed watching television as Rich relaxed in his recliner, but Rich relished the cat’s company. When Rich learned of his illness, he was so worried about the cat and was pleased that his faithful companion was adopted by his friend, Gwynne Messenger.

Rich’s journalistic abilities have resulted in numerous awards and one to be acknowledged next month is induction into the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.

As noted previously, Rich was a professional journalist, and a professional is a “a person who is expert at his or her work.”

Rich’s most important qualities, however, were revealed in recent months after being informed of his illness.

Well-known for his coverage of many athletic contests, Rich proved with his optimism and courage that he also was a professional in the game of life.

Pokas can be reached at