In an abrasive world, a friendly hello can go a long way. It did for postman Gary Nobles, whose death early Saturday has stunned and saddened Morristown merchants and residents.
Nobles, 60, died at his Dover home, friends said. The cause has not been disclosed.
Every day for years, he faithfully delivered good cheer along with the mail, according to people along Nobles’ downtown mail route.
“It won’t be the same without him,” said Ann Schrevens, manager of the Lauren B boutique. “He was such a positive, upbeat person.”
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” said Dave Walters, owner of SmartWorld Coffee. “He was the nicest guy in the world.”
A wake is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, from 6 pm to 9 pm in Morristown at the Calvary Baptist Church, where Nobles was an usher. Another viewing is set for 10 am to 11 am on Wednesday, Sept. 4, with a funeral service immediately afterward. The address is 10 Martin Luther King Ave.
Nobles’ faith was important to him, said longtime friend Maureen Denman.
“He brought so much joy to so many people. He viewed himself as one of God’s disciples,” she said.
Nobles never owned a mobile phone, preferring real conversations, Denman said. The letter carrier’s mile-wide smile made an impression on everyone who experienced it.
He smiled “like he knew something we all didn’t know,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty.
“Definitely, the landscape has changed in our downtown by not having that smiling face every day,” he said.
“For the time that I had the pleasure to work with Gary Nobles, he was always smiling and always had something positive to say about everyone. He never had a negative comment about anyone. He will be sadly missed,” said former Morristown Postmaster Janice Peters, now an operations manager for the Northern New Jersey District.
“Gary always had that big smile waiting for me,” Denman recounted. “Every time he saw me, he made me feel like the most special person in the world.”
Nobles worked for years with her husband, now retired from the Postal Service. If she had a spat with her spouse, she said, Nobles would remind her: “You know you love him.”
“And he’d have me smiling when I walked away. Not many people have that gift. He could do that.”
‘WHERE ARE YOUR SHORTS?’
Born and raised in Kinston, N.C., Gary Louis Nobles graduated from the University of North Carolina and was a lifelong Tar Heels fan, Denman said.
Nobles’ cheerful demeanor changed when he put down his mailbag and picked up a basketball.
“He was a very fierce competitor. I’d rather have him on my side than play against him,” said Christopher “Chipper” Brown, Morristown High ’79, who played pick-up ball with Nobles in men’s leagues in Morristown and Parsippany in the 1980s and ’90s. “We recruited him, that’s how good he was,” Brown said of the power forward.
Nobles enjoyed fishing trips with Postal Service colleagues, and watching golf. A postal employee for nearly 33 years, he was starting to speak of retirement, Denman said.
Dedicated, dependable and hard-working, Nobles took pride in his job, mentored new hires and got high marks from customers, said Peters, his former postmaster.
Nobles liked to joke about his postal uniform shorts.
“He always would wait until the very last minute to change into shorts, because once he went to shorts, he’d say, ‘there was no going back until winter,'” said Schrevens, the boutique manager. “I will miss him. It’s so sad. He knew everyone in town.”
Traffic Officer Rodney Davenport of the Morristown Parking Authority said he will miss bantering with Nobles, too.
“He would be telling me, ‘Hey, where are your shorts?'” said Davenport. “We always joked around.”
Now, he said, “everyone’s in shock.”
Mike Killen, a regular at the coffee shop, and Gretchen Braunschweiger of Braunschweiger Jewelers both used the word “upbeat” to characterize the letter carrier.
“He was just such a nice guy who made an effort to really know all the people on his route,” Braunschweiger said.
Nobles “brought a community sense to this part of town,” said Pastor David Smazik of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown.
“He was a very engaging gentleman, the kind that seemed to seek out contact with you, walking on the same side of the street or the opposite side of the street,” the minister said.
Nobles is survived by his wife Celeste; sisters Mary Nobles Jackson of Virginia and Ann Nobles of Florida; and brothers Al of Morristown, Will of North Carolina and James (“Poogie”) of Pennsylvania.