Mel “Buster” Carico (Photo courtesy of The Richmond Times-Dispatch)

The death of Mel “Buster” Carico Monday  at the age of 101 means the loss of an icon of newspapers and news coverage of politics in Virginia.

For me, Carico was the last mentor from my days as a young, headstrong reporter at The Roanoke Times from 1965-69.

Melville Carico started in the mailroom at Times-World Corporation in 1934 and began writing for years later and worked up to become the respected political reporter for The Times in the 50s.

When I joined the paper at the Times’ youngest full-time reporter in 1965, he called me “the kid” but took time to critique my stories and provide much-needed advice on how to make them better.

Thanks to him, I got to cover the General Assembly in Richmond.

“Let the kid come,” he said to city editor Dick Hancock.  “He might learn a thing or two.”

I learned a lot.

Buster retired in 1981.  Along with another Times legend, columnist Ben Beagle, I learned a lot about my chosen and loved profession.  Beagle died last March at 88 and now Carico is gone at 101.

They were the last of several newspaper men who mentored me and tried to keep my ego and impulses under control.

Former Floyd Press owner Pete Hallman gave me my first newspaper job in 1963 and kept me working while I attended Floyd County High School.

Fred Leofffler, State Editor, took a chance on me to work as a correspondent for in 1964 and convinced The Times to put me to work as a reporter in 1965.

All have died before the often forecasted death of the newspaper profession they served so honorably.

May the rest of us who consider ourselves newspaper men and women be as lucky.