Paul Lomartire wasn't so much of a writer as a storyteller who filled the pages of The Palm Beach Post for 20 years with tales he often gathered from the folks not commonly heard from in print - the pawn shop owner, the drugged-out prostitute, the couple that cleaned up crime scenes.|
And as easy as it was for Lomartire to endear himself with the regular Joes, he was just as at home with CEOs and movie stars. He gathered their stories and inspired quite a few more.
- A deadline nearly missed because Lomartire insisted to stop and help a man change a tire.
- A 20-year watch that Lomartire earned, but gave to the paper's executive assistant because he didn't care and she, with only 19 years in, did.
Wednesday, Lomartire died of sudden illness. He was 63.
His friends were caught off guard. After retiring from the news business in 2008, he took about writing in the disaster business - he was a public information specialist for FEMA.
"Paul found stories no one else could find," Palm Beach Post publisher Tim Burke said. "His old-school approach would do very well today on any new platform."
Lomartire was stricken with an abdominal aneurysm this weekend and in the days that followed, living rooms, news rooms and his hospital room were filled with Lomartire stories.
"He's just one of the nicest people I ever met. He was the guy who interviewed the local hooker in the morning on Dixie Highway and in the afternoon was smoking out in the back with the publisher. He cared about the people he came into contact with. You never felt like you were keeping Paul from anything," said Sue Klemann, who Wednesday was wearing a the 20-year Cartier watch Lomartire insisted she get instead of him.
Lomartire came to The Palm Beach Post in 1989 from the closing Miami News. He worked before that at the paper in Wichita.
He was an old-school reporter - a day in the office was a bad day, a good conversation was littered with expletives and, for many years, his breaks were filled with cigarettes and coffee.
Lomartire was the TV critic who took a dentist with him to the fall television series preview and asked him to critique the smiles of the stars, recalled his editor Jan Tuckwood. He was the one to notice that local pawn shops were the true barometer of how much hurt the economy was putting on Palm Beachers. But he was also adept at explaining how a Disney-esque vision by Riviera Beach politicians was going to render thousands of their constituents homeless.
"He was a delightful eccentric," former Post Managing Editor Tom O'Hara said. "He was good to have in the newsroom because he brought a different sensibility than most people. He had a certain style, a certain edge - and he was funny."
He was not about the material. Lomartire rented an apartment from a colleague for a decade, commuting between West Palm Beach and family in Tampa and furnished it with a chair, a desk and years down the road a TV. He would read in the garden by flashlight.
"He was honest. If I asked his opinion, I had to stand back and be ready for the unvarnished truth. He was gruff, kind, thoughtful. He was genuine and sincere with everyone from crack addicts to mayors, strippers and lawyers," wrote former colleague and landlord Cheryl Blackerby.
"He fretted about everyone from the landscaper to his next-door neighbor who he thought had dreadful taste in men. He worried about his wife and son in Tampa, and bragged about them. No one had a bigger heart than Paul."
Lomartire is survived by his son, Nick, and sisters Julie, of Wheaton, Ill., and Mary, of Milwaukee. The family was working to finalize funeral arrangements Wednesday.
Published in The Palm Beach Post on May 7, 2014