Walter Matthew Gibb, 95, copy editor at The Sun for more than 30 years

February 22, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Walter Matthew Gibb, a retired newspaper copy editor and makeup editor whose career at The Sun spanned more than 30 years, died of a stroke Sunday at a nursing facility in Valparaiso, Ind. He was 95 and had lived on Regester Avenue in Rodgers Forge for 59 years before moving to Valparaiso in 1999.

Born in Cleveland and raised in Chicago, where his father was an executive with the Cadillac Division of the General Motors Corp., Mr. Gibb "told the story of going along with his father to deliver a Cadillac he had sold to Al Capone and being allowed to touch his pearl-handled gun," said daughter Joan Gibb Engel of Beverly Shores, Ind.

After receiving his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1930, Mr. Gibb took a job as assistant publicity director at the Point Breeze plant of Western Electric Co. in Baltimore.

He later was a rewrite man for the Baltimore Post, which was purchased by the News American. He joined The Sun in 1943 as a copy editor.

Mr. Gibb was promoted to makeup man, overseeing the content as local news pages were assembled in the composing room. He also edited stories and wrote headlines for what was then known as the women's pages.

"He was a highly intelligent guy and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Chicago," said John H. Plunkett, retired assistant managing editor of The Sun. "He was a very imaginative person who was both quiet and scholarly. And he also wrote some really funny headlines while working on the desk."

After a hearse carrying the remains of a veteran was towed from an illegal parking place near City Hall while its driver was picking up the death certificate, Mr. Gibb penned this headline: "No Parking Means Every Body."

Mr. Gibb was one of the last in the newsroom to wear the once-common green eyeshade, and one of the first to commute to work by bicycle. Beginning in the 1950s, he rode his bike, no matter what the weather or season, between the Calvert Street newspaper building and his home - making the return trip in the wee hours, along often-empty streets.

An attack by miscreants near North Avenue failed to deter Mr. Gibb from his nightly pedaling trips, of which he kept an exacting record.

"When he got home, he chalked up on the wall of the garage the time it had taken as well as the exact mileage," his daughter said.

Mr. Gibb also wrote light essays, many of which were published in The Atlantic Monthly and Woman's Day, and was a skilled billiards and chess player.

"Walter and I passed the time walking a picket line in the 1970s with my travel-size chess set," recalled Jerry M. Bayne, a Sun copy editor. "I confidently tried a rapid development strategy against Walter, and he calmly gave me a lesson in the power of the pawn. I should have known better than to challenge a University of Chicago graduate."

An ardent bibliophile, Mr. Gibb filled his home with thousands of books. After his retirement in 1978, he began the study of various religions and Chinese.

Mr. Gibb was married for 48 years to the former Hettie Amelia Brown, who died in 1980.

He was a longtime member of Second Presbyterian Church.

Services are private.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Gibb is survived by two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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