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Longtime Fullerton newspaper editor Bob Ziebell remembered for detailed eye, kind heart

Bob Ziebell, a longtime Fullerton News-Tribune editor who chronicled the city’s goings-on for decades, died on Tuesday, July 7. He was 85 years old.

For his friends at Fullerton Elks Lodge #1993, where Ziebell was a member of for 27 years, Ziebell was funny, gracious and welcoming. For his former colleagues at the News-Tribune, Ziebell was an editor with an encyclopedic knowledge of Fullerton, a sharp eye for details and a kind heart.

“He was walking, talking, breathing Fullerton all the time,” said Eric Carpenter, a former reporter at The Orange County Register who worked with Ziebell for seven years in the 1990s and 2000s.

Ziebell came to Fullerton in 1959, after spending his early years in Winona, Minnesota and then three years in the army.

With $100 in his pocket, Ziebell and his bride, Gail, traveled to Orange County. He took a job at the News-Tribune and the couple lived at the California Hotel, which is now Villa del Sol on Harbor Boulevard, said a 2005 story written for his retirement.

Ziebell stayed at the News-Tribune until 1984, rising to the position of managing editor. After working as a business consultant for 10 years, Ziebell returned to the News-Tribune as a city editor in 1994 as the Register’s owners revived the weekly community paper.

Ziebell edited other community papers for the Register, including the La Habra Star. For Andrew Tuttle, who worked as a reporter for the Star from 1998 to 2001, Ziebell represented the “Dan Marino of newspaper editors” – an old-school Hall of Famer.

Ziebell had a “gentle hand” but a sharp eye for errors or bad writing, Tuttle said.

“He had an allure of respect. You didn’t want to let Bob down,” Tuttle said. “He always made you want to be better. He made you want to be a better reporter. He made you want to be a better writer.”

Carpenter recalled Ziebell as “a library of knowledge.”

Ziebell and Barbara Giasone, who covered north Orange County for decades, often had a story to tell about whatever he was covering, Carpenter said.

Ziebell chronicled the city in the book “Fullerton: A Pictorial History,” which he originally published in 1994 and updated in 2002.

“I can bring up just about any name and any history and they can tell me the backstory and the person’s family and history,” Carpenter, now a spokesman for the Orange County Transportation Authority, said of the Ziebell-and-Giasone team at the paper. “It was a great history lesson every day I came to work.”

Still, Ziebell was serious about his work – Carpenter recalled him wearing a black shirt every Tuesday to let his reporters know it was time for them to meet the paper’s deadline.

“He just knew when it was time to do business,” Carpenter said. “He was focused on his computer, and he expected the same of you.”

Ziebell retired from the News-Tribune in 2005. But he remained active in the Fullerton community, especially in the Elks.

Ziebell joined the Elks in 1993 and was chosen Elk of the Year for 2001-02. He became a full-time volunteer for the chapter when he retired, serving in roles such as its secretary, said Steve Vartanian, a longtime Elks member who had known Ziebell for 25 years.

The chapter’s current secretary, Mariann Aita, said Ziebell was a part of the group called ROMEOs – Really Old Men Eating Out – who would come to the Elks’ building one Friday a month for lunch.

“He was very, very friendly, welcoming,” Aita said. “He was a sweet man.”

Ziebell was gracious and generous, but Vartanian said there was one honor Ziebell refused to share: Being named the chapter’s “Senior Teenager of the Month.” Ziebell had a very sharp journalistic eye, but he also was a teenager at heart, Vartanian said.

“He is one of those friends,” Vartanian said, “I wish I had one more day with.”

Source: Orange County Register

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