Goodbye Goon, you were one of a kind

Published 8:52 am Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I’ll never forget the day I first met Vernon “Goon” Riddick.

It was the spring of 1972; I had landed a part-time job here at what is now the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald (back then known as Parker Brothers, Inc.; aka, The Herald Printing House).

As a sophomore at Chowan College majoring in Graphic Arts, I was seeking some “on-the-job” training close to home and The Herald Office was looking for some part-time help in its offset camera room. There I would train under the watchful eye and highly skilled Larry Howell of Como. What I learned from Larry has carried me throughout my 30-plus years in this business.

But, anyway, back to “Goon.”

As I was being shown around what we called the “back shop” (the camera room/darkroom was located in the corner of the commercial printing room) by my boss John Powell, a man walked up to where we were standing. Staring at my then shoulder length, thick, jet black hair, he said, “Son, don’t get anywhere near my presses; you might come away as baldheaded as I am.”

Those words of wisdom came from a man that would later become a good friend – Vernon Francis Riddick.

“Goon” – or “Goonie” as we so often called him – passed from this world on Dec. 3. He was 84 years young.

I really don’t know how Vernon got stuck with his nickname, but somehow it fit the man. He had a knack of getting things when he wanted and how he wanted. He would laugh with you one minute and, if your work didn’t suit him, kick you in the butt the next.

“Goon” was an old-school printer…I guess learning the trade from his own form of hands-on-training. That was back in the day where our line of work so very labor intensive…a far cry from today’s world of desk top publishing. You got your hands dirty back then, but that, to me, was the best teacher of them all.

Even after “Goon” retired in the early 1990’s, he and I remained friends. Whenever our paths crossed, a long discussion of “Herald tales” would ensue. I could sit and listen to him talk for hours on end…he had such a depth of knowledge when it came to the printing business, not to mention his opinion on other matters.

“Goon” was in the office less than a month ago. I really don’t know the reason for his visit, but he slowly made his way to my office…stopping, of course, to flirt with all the women….plopped down in a chair and commenced to rehash old tales of The Herald.

Somewhere along the conversation, his thoughts turned to his family. As a widower, “Goon” loved his family, especially his grandchildren, all six of them. He shared stories of their times together and I didn’t have to look very hard to see that trademark sheepish grin on his face. His eyes lit-up when talking about his grandkids.

For those of us that knew him, we’re all better people for having Vernon “Goon” Riddick in our lives. To his sons, Bart and Tim; his grandchildren and his sisters, you have my condolences, but you also have my thanks for sharing your loved one with the rest of us.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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