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Gabby and Kris Lubich: the definition of good neighbors

“That’s the thing about small towns, seems like people think more about other people than just themselves,” said Gabby Lubich. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Miultimedia

They are two of the nicest, most gracious people you will ever meet making them the perfect choice to be this year's Grand Marshals for Robert's Good Neighbor Days parade which steps off at 11 a.m. Sunday, June 4.

Terry, or Gabby as he is known by many folks, and his wife Kris Lubich said they are honored to serve as the Grand Marshals for this year's parade.

"I think it's awesome," said Kris.

"To be recognized as someone that your community has picked to represent them." said Gabby.

"We're quite honored. Our kids are awful proud," added Kris.

This will be their second time around as Grand Marshals having sat in the big chair several years ago. According to Gabby, they still have the sign from the side of the car and since it did not have the year on it...

"No reason why we can't reuse it," said Kris.

Throughout the coming summer, communities across the valley will have their signature festivals and with each comes a parade and some lucky person or couple selected to be the Grand Marshals. Each community determines what qualities will define their Grand Marshals. In Roberts, they wear their definition on their sleeve so to speak, as good neighbors.

"That's the thing about small towns, seems like people think more about other people than just themselves," said Gabby.

In 1998, Gabby and Kris lost a grandson.

"The village has been so good to us. We had a grandson that died when he was 5, he would have been 19 this year. The fire department put on a great big benefit for him and just the turnout, what people give back. This is a good town. It truly is a village of good neighbors," said Kris.

Another measure of neighborliness is how many folks actually count you as their neighbor. According to Kris, it might be easier to count the folks who do not know her husband.

"He's somebody who will go for a walk downtown and before you know it, he'll be out working at somebody's house. He's the only guy who can go over to the post office to get the mail, it closes at 10:30 a.m. on the weekend, and he gets home at noon," said Kris.

Gabby and Kris are both avid runners. Tie racks in a back bedroom are covered in ribbons and metals attesting to their success over the last 12 years, but they came to the sport in different ways.

Kris blames her daughter Tera for guilting her into something that has turned out to be a very good thing.

"There was a benefit run for a little girl in Hudson that had cancer. My daughter asked me, "Do you want to come and run with me?" I said, 'No.' She said, 'Come on, it's for a little 6-year-old girl. You don't have to run the whole thing, you just have to finish.' I ran over that finish line and I was hooked," remembered Kris.

Gabby's introduction to running was a little less glamorous, but it has lead to a fair bit of notoriety.

"I just started running after work," said Gabby.

Gabby drove a truck for 44 years, 23 for South St. Paul Feed and 21 for N&M Transfer out of Baldwin. It makes sense that he would appreciate a run after sitting in the driver's seat all day, though it seems he was so anxious to get out running, he just ran in his work clothes.

"He used to run in bib overalls, that's what he was known for," said Kris with a little smile.

Those bibs became Gabby's claim to fame. Eventually Gabby relented and embraced a pair of running shorts, but apparently it took some chiding from his daughter to complete the makeover.

"Dad you're running now so what the heck's the difference. You just gotta start wearing tennis shoes instead of cowboy boots," said Tera.

Running has become a family affair for Kris and Gabby. Four years ago Gabby suggested to a niece that they run in the Veterans Run Memorial Day in New Richmond in memory of his brother. Everyone happened to be coming into town for a nephew's wedding. That niece got on the phone and spread the word showing up on race day with Gabby's Gang T-shirts for everyone. The Gang has shown up for the run every year since. Kris noted that same race started the running career of one of her granddaughters before she could even walk. Her mother carried her for that first race, then wheeled her in a stroller the next three years and this year, she is signed up to propel herself in the kids race.

Gabby and Kris enjoy running for obvious health benefits but also for the opportunity to meet and socialize with other runners. Frequently the runs raise funds for someone in need or a worthy social cause which Gabby and Kris admit make each run a little sweeter. You can find the fleet-footed couple running in eight to ten races a summer including the Good Neighbor Days 5K, the Veterans Memorial Day Run in New Richmond, the Willow River Run, the New Richmond Heritage Days Run and the UFO Days 5K in Elmwood.

Both Gabby and Kris come from big families: Gabby from a family of 10 and Kris from a family of 11, which helps explain why they both believe family is so important.

"We're a very close family. I think that's why we get along so great, our families just mesh together. It's wonderful," said Kris.

Gabby bought their house and everything in it on Division Street in 1971 for $12,000. He married Kris and she moved in 1978. While Gabby drove a truck, Kris worked for 25 years cleaning buildings for the Village and together they raised three daughters, Kari Jo, Tera and Cassie. All three live in the area, share the family's passion for running and make a point of coming home regularly.

Apparently Tera, a personal trainer, has taken a personal interest in keeping Gabby and Kris in sneakers and on the road. Kris refers to her "interest" as boot camp.

"She's either trying to keep us alive to make more money or kill us off before we spend it," said Kris.

Neighbors know Gabby and Kris for their gifts of homemade blackberry jam and maple syrup but one particular young resident of Roberts knows Gabby as Santa.

Gabby's distinctive grey beard made an immediate impression on a young stranger out walking with his mother one day while Gabby was out for a run. As Gabby ran by, the boy called out, "Hi Santa."

The mom was curious enough to track down Gabby's name and address through the library. That Christmas, she called and asked if her son could come visit Santa. Gabby agreed and when the young man showed up at his door with a plate full of cookies and a letter for him, presents were exchanged and the friendship was sealed. Most importantly, the young man wanted to know, "Do you make the presents here too?"

Not too long after their friendship began, the fire at the elementary school called Gabby into action as a long-time member of the fire department (more than 40 years). His young friend knew he was a firefighter, in addition to his other job as the jolly old elf, and insisted his mother make a call, "We better make sure he didn't get hurt."

Whether it is racing with Gabby's Gang, the traditional family picnic during Good Neighbor Days, hosting 75 of their closest friends and family members for Christmas, acknowledging the cheers and greetings from friends and neighbors while out on a run or a two-hour trip to the post office happily interrupted to share stories with friends and strangers, Gabby and Kris Lubich understand better than most what it means to be a good neighbor.

"This is a wonderful, wonderful town. There are just so many good people out there. You all meet at a certain time, in a certain place, for a reason. I believe that," said Kris.