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May 21, 2019

9/12/2018 2:19:00 PM
Gullett, 'face' of the Daily News for 53 years, dies at 80
Circa 1955, Clyde Smith (right), Daily News commercial printing manager, goes over the fine points of a letterpress printing job with Larry Gullett. Gullet died Saturday at 80. (Daily News archives)
Circa 1955, Clyde Smith (right), Daily News commercial printing manager, goes over the fine points of a letterpress printing job with Larry Gullett. Gullet died Saturday at 80. (Daily News archives)
For years, Larry Gullett was a fixture of the Daily News.

Seated at his desk next to the entrance, he was as common a sight as the blue newspaper box just outside the front door.

Gullett worked for the newspaper for 53 years before retiring at the age of 70 in May 2008. "I never planned on staying longer than anyone else," he said at the time. "I just always felt lucky to have this job."

Larry Gullett died Saturday at the Magnolia Center. He was 80.

Gullett was born in Robinson on Christmas Eve 1937, the son of George and Goldie (Hanley) Gullett. He first got involved with the Daily News as part of the "Diversified Occupations" class then offered at Robinson High School.

Through the class, he began as a part-time employee in September 1954. A week after graduating in 1955, then-publisher Kent V. Lewis called him and offered him a full-time job.

Three years later, Gullett married Ronda Jo Wood. He is survived by her, their four children and their spouses. Other survivors include nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Gullett loved animals and was an accomplished equestrian in his younger days. He also loved gardening, dancing and being a father and grandfather.

For more than a half-century, Gullett worked in various positions, learning different aspects of the newspaper business even as it evolved and changed.

At first he worked in the "back shop," the part of the Daily News office where the paper is actually printed. It was a messy job.

"Back then, you did everything," Gullett said. "I cleaned a lot of dirty ink out of the press."

In those days, the press was recessed into the floor and ink flowed from wells beneath it. As one of the smallest employees, Gullett often had to go down and ladle ink into the wells. These days, the ink is pumped into the press with a hose.

He also worked on the old Linotype, setting galleys of newsprint and classified advertisements and laying out display ads.

The Linotype, introduced in the 1880s, was used for generations by newspapers. The operator would sit in front with the copy to be set at the top of the keyboard. Having adjusted the machine for the required point size and line length, operator would heat the metal inside - an alloy of lead, tin and antimony - to about 550 degrees.

Then he would begin setting type, molding lines of text in metal.

It was not a simple task. "It was a skill. Mr. Lewis sent me to school to learn how to use it," Gullett explained. "There were 90 keys on its keyboard."

The paper was still using "hot lead" when he became a full-time employee, and it was still using the Linotype when Gullett switched to the advertising department in 1966.

He stayed in adverstising for the remainder of his career, eventually becoming national ad manager and insert manager.

He clearly enjoyed it. "He always used to tell us, 'we're having some fun now. Some adverstising fun,'" Daily News Advertising Manager Winnie Piper said.

It was not unusual to find Gullett already hard at work more than an hour before the office opened.

"He was always one of the first to get here and stayed until the doors locked at 5," Piper said. "He always liked to open up and close."

He also liked to wait on customers and was usually the first person a visitor to the newspaper office would see.

He made an impression. A decade after his retirement, other Daily News employees said they still half-expect to see him at his old desk, enjoying a cup of coffee, a cigarette and just being on the job.

Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Goodwine Funeral Home in Robinson. Funeral services are 2 p.m. Thursday.

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