LUMBERTON — Rick Bacon, the community relations manager for The Robesonian, died Thursday night at Southeastern Regional Medical Center after a battle with lung cancer. He was 67 years old.
Bacon had more than 44 years of experience in the newspaper and media industry, coming to work at The Robesonian in early August 2013.
“He had been fighting cancer … with incredible bravery and we had thought heretofore, successfully,” said Michael Bush, CEO of Civitas Media, which owns The Robesonian. “Rick was a consummate professional, wonderful friend, terrific supporter of the company, true baseball fan and a very funny guy. I will miss him every day both personally and professionally.”
In addition to his duties at The Robesonian, Bacon was regional business development manager of Civitas Media’s Eastern Carolina Group of newspapers, which includes the Bladen Journal, Laurinburg Exchange, The Red Springs Citizen and The St. Pauls Review.
Bacon was known as an excellent advertising executive with a keen ability to help his customers grow their businesses by implementing innovative and successful advertising and marketing programs. He held leadership roles as publisher and regional publisher with CNI Newspapers Inc. and Heartland Publications in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Before his newspaper career, he spent a dozen years in broadcasting, working with several radio stations in North Carolina.
“Rick was a great guy and he will be missed. He had a wonderful sense of humor that made working with him fun,” said Robin Walker, business development manager for The Robesonian who reported directly to Bacon. “But he was also a very good newspaper man who had great ideas that were essential during a time when the industry is facing so many challenges.”
Walker’s counterpart at The Richmond County Daily Journal, Judy Cagle, worked with him when he was publisher there.
“Rick was larger than life,” she said. “I will really miss him. I loved going to lunch with him. He had a lot of knowledge and I could always bounce ideas off of him.”
Bacon penned his own obituary, which will be published Sunday in The Robesonian. In it, he wrote: “Everyone who remembers Rick is asked to celebrate his life in their own way; telling a ‘He wasn’t so bad’ or ‘What an ass’ story of their choosing. Boiled shrimp and a beverage of your choice should be part of any celebration.”
His sense or humor was evident through the obituary, including this gem: “Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience and his ashes will be kept in an urn passed from family member to family member until no one can remember what’s in the jar.”
Susie Smith, the business manager of the Richmond County Daily Journal who worked with Bacon for 10 years, said that he could always be counted on to say something funny or tell a story that while humorous had a meaning for the moment at hand.
“Rick always had something funny to say and could make you feel good when you were down,” she said. “His stories are infamous.”
Smith also said that Bacon was someone who knew the newspaper business.
“No matter what we could always call on him if we needed help,” she said. “He would always be there to cover our backs.”
Bacon was raised in Burnsville, the younger of two children. He and his wife Candy, who were married for 29 years, moved to Lumberton from Hamlet. They have three grown children, Jon, Melody and Bryan, five grandchildren and four rescue dogs.
Bacon was an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds for more than 50 years and traveled around the country to watch them play.
Bacon attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Mars Hill College. He served four years in the U.S. Air Force and held a top-secret cryptography job while stationed in Turkey and Italy.
He served on a number of community and business boards. He was the immediate past president of the Rockingham Rotary Club. He served on the board of directors of the United Way in Lake City, Fla. The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce named him Chamber Member of the Year during his time as publisher there. He served for two years as a board member of the South Carolina Press Association.
Dick Taylor, the owner of Taylor Insurance in Lumberton, said that he got to know Bacon through his involvement in the Rotary Club.
“We had a very short lived but good relationship,” Taylor said. “Rotary is where I got to know Rick and I was just so impressed with him. I don’t think I was ever so impressed with someone so quickly.”
“The world is a smaller place today,” Bush said. “For the many of you who knew Rick and of his valiant and spirited struggle these last months, I’m sure you will be struck by the fundamental unfairness of his death. I hope, however, that you will be inspired by the quality of his gentle strength and great spirit in his last struggle. He was the bravest soul I ever knew.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.