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Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Tampa Tribune


Paper Carrier Retires After Amazing Run


Edition: FINAL

Section: BAYLIFE

Sunday October 09, 2005


Page 1

Paper Carrier Retires After Amazing Run


Except for a few during vacations, today is the first Sunday in 29 years that Al Lueck will get to sleep in.

Someone else will deliver 330 copies of The Tampa Tribune to subscribers in Northdale on what used to be Lueck's paper route.

Oct. 2 was his last day.

As someone who would rather have gum surgery without anesthesia than get up before dawn, I have boundless admiration for all who do -- particularly those who do it seven days a week.

Given my almost pathological aversion to early wake-up calls, the first question I asked Lueck was: "What time did you get up?"

He laughed.

His morning usually began before 3:30 -- earlier on Sunday, when it takes longer to put the paper together.

Carriers insert all the supplements -- advertising sections and so forth -- to the news sections. They also put the papers into plastic bags that keep them from getting wet.

Lueck's first job of the day often ended by 6:30 a.m., giving him plenty of time for job No. 2. He worked in the pest control industry for years and still has a couple of customers.

Subscribers No. 1

Lueck -- pronounced "luck" -- will be hard to replace.

Customer service was his top priority, says Tribune circulation division manager Dave Miller, who worked with Lueck 13 years.

"He accommodated special subscriber requests, including taking the paper to the door for the disabled. He won several awards through the years for his outstanding service. He delivered during the hurricanes last year without a problem. He's delivered sample bags with soap, cereal, lotion, razors, perfume, trash bags, breakfast bars and candy."

Lueck also distributed the weekly Carrollwood News to nonsubscribers along his route in northern Hillsborough County.

Miller added that Lueck's reliability was outstanding.

"It's hard to find people of his character who would stick with a job seven days a week, and you never had to worry about his route. He was a loyal, conscientious carrier who will be missed by the Tribune and our subscribers."

Dedicated Duo

Lueck, whose wife, Karen, also worked as a carrier and route supervisor -- her Tribune career lasted 23 years -- is an "aw- shucks" kind of guy who shies away from compliments.

But he is proud of his service.

"Except for the times I went on vacation, I never missed," he said.

"I did it when I was sick. I did it when I had a broken foot, a broken ankle, stitches in my finger. Just like the mailman, I was always there."

At one point, when both Al and Karen were throwing papers, they worked eight years straight without a day off. The couple came to Tampa from Nebraska for the warm weather in the 1970s.

They became avid scuba divers; delivering papers gave them plenty of daylight hours for diving.

Karen became a carrier after Al -- and quit before him. She now works at USAA.

Al estimates that in 29 years on the job, he delivered 1,740,000 papers, drove 350,000 miles and went through 15 to 20 vehicles.

He would still be throwing Tribunes but for rotator cuff injuries that required surgery this year. Throwing 7-pound Sunday papers got to be too much, he said.

On this first Sunday off, he may sleep a little later than usual. He has taken to snoozing till 5:30 a.m. since his retirement.

Why still so early?

"I fix Karen's coffee."

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