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A death in the family: Rick Nelson was a class act

As the Chinook Observer went to press this week, word reached the newsroom that Rick Nelson, publisher of the Wahkiakum County Eagle, succumbed to cancer on June 2.

Nelson would have laughed to have been called a legend or an institution. But he epitomized all the qualities most admired in community journalists.

He provided a forum for all shades of political persuasions. His pages were always full with names and details as he and his dedicated staff celebrated the achievements and marked the milestones of the residents of Wahkiakum County and Naselle. His photos of nature and wildlife celebrated the outdoors.

Nelson’s parents, Bob and Lois Nelson, bought the paper in 1966. Rick started working there as a seventh grader, cleaning up. He graduated from Wahkiakum High School in 1969, then attended Western Washington University where he studied French and journalism. Although he worked in the woods, he returned to newspapering and took over as publisher when his father died in 2006.

He leaves a wife, MaryAnn, and two sons, Jacob and Jamie.

Nelson most recently was lauded by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “For 40 years, Rick Nelson kept the people of Cathlamet and indeed all of Wahkiakum County connected to one another through the power of the press,” Inslee wrote in comments on the front page of the monthly bulletin of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

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