By Frank Lewis
When it comes to going after “the story” probably no one ever did it better than Paul Nelson, who spent 36 years with the Daily Times.
“Paul’s nickname was ‘bulldog’,” Former Times Managing Editor and current Regional Content Manager for Civitas Media, Gary Abernathy said. “That was his nickname because that’s the kind of reporter he was. Tenacious, very fair, he really set an example for what a reporter can be.”
Nelson died Sunday at SOMC Hospice. He was 83, a former reporter, photographer and columnist, he retired in 1996. Toward the end of his career he mainly covered government and politics. Among those he covered was then-Mayor Franklin T. Gerlach.
“He was dedicated,” Gerlach said. “He was always interested in getting a story that would be of interest, and he would be persistent to meet his deadline. He was very knowledgeable and professional in the way that he handled the news. And he reported it as it was.”
“Everybody liked Paul, but you didn’t want to avoid his questions because he wouldn’t let it go,” Abernathy said. “If you tried to avoid a question he was trying to get at, he’d ask it ten more times in ten different ways till he felt that you had answered it. And I could sit in my office and listen to him interview somebody, and I would just have to smile, because I would think to myself, the quicker you answer Paul’s question, the better.”
No one knew Paul Nelson better than his family. The thing he talked about the most was the successes of his three daughters, Catharine Ann Yates, Susan Arlene Lawrence and Nancy Carol Pack.
“He had three girls and he totally supported us in everything we did,” Pack said. “I really think that we were his life. He would tell everybody, even strangers, if he would go to the doctor’s office, that, ‘I’ve got three girls and they’re all registered nurses.’”
He was so proud of their successes that when he wrote his own obituary, and he did write his own obituary, he included that fact in that obituary.
“As a dad, he was always asking, ‘how are you doing?’ and he was super-supportive, and he would ask a thousand questions because I think that was part of his reporter life too,” Pack said.
Pack said, in addition to inspiring her as a father, he also inspired her with his work ethic as a reporter for the Times.
“He worked for everything he did. He didn’t stop,” Pack said. “I don’t feel like he got discouraged even with his legs.”
Nelson lost one leg, then several years later, lost his other leg, but Pack said it didn’t slow him down. He was determined that he would walk again - “And he did,” Pack said. “At 83 years old he was still walking with two prosthesis and I think that’s amazing. He just worked so hard. I think he had not the best childhood. It was hard. He worked really hard. He had a newspaper route when he was seven. I think he worked ever since then. He worked really hard, and because he didn’t have anything, he knew if he wanted anything he would join the military. He was in the Air Force. He worked in communications, and he never stopped. I think he was just a big inspiration for me to just not give up. I just don’t give up.” Even during his last hospital stay, Pack said her father was doing leg exercises so his muscles would not become atrophied.
Nelson graduated from Washington High School, enlisted in the Air Force, serving four years including a tour of duty in Korea. He graduated from Kent State University in 1960 with a degree in business administration and public relations.
“He was a wonderful co-worker,” Abernathy said. “Everybody in the building loved Paul. He was a thoughtful person; helpful to other reporters. We would have young reporters, and Paul was just super to them.”
Nelson obviously had the heart and temperament of a newsman.
“He loved his job,” Pack said. “When I would come up and visit him. He would still talk about stories he worked on and the people he talked to and how people would get mad at him and he didn’t care. He got the story anyway.”
A celebration of life will be held Feb. 8, 2014 at 1 p.m. at the Sciotoville Christian Church
Frank Lewis can be reached at 740-353-3101, Ext. 252, or on Twitter @FrankLewispdt.