We’ve Lost a Legend!

1 year, 1 month ago 6
Posted in: Uncategorized

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This isn’t easy, in fact it’s impossible, but I have to try.  Don Nelson was one of my very best friends of a lifetime.  Don was, and is, a legend in the photo business, the workshop field and as an all around great guy!


Let me start at the beginning.  I met Don Nelson when the Nikon F3 camera was released. I drove to Kingsport, Tennessee, to see the new camera.  Don was a salesman for Nikon and their best, many times the President’s Award Winner!  He showed me the camera and we visited for several hours, few other folks showed up!  From that day on Don and I became friends and had a friendship that grew deeper.  He introduced me to many of his friends, most of them movers an shakers too!  He was the chairman of the biggest photojournalism conference in America, The Southern Short Course and he invited me to speak there, where I met some of the legends of the photography world.  I was invited back to be the Master of Ceremonies for several more years, where I met even more legends.  Thanks to Don, many door were opened to me that would have never been opened without his friendship.  He was with me at the beginning of workshop career, helping me, as usual, with things I needed a lot of help with!!!!


Don introduced me to Hugh Morton and the entire Grandfather Mountain family, further widening my horizons.  We did many events together and had more fun than you can imagine.  When the sideline photographer for the Washington Redskins was injured, Don got me the official photographers position for a short while!!!


More than any of that, Don was a real friend, I loved him like a brother and appreciated so many things about him.  Don was a true legend and everyone that knew him knew that!  A few years back Don was diagnosed with Lymphoma and he fought a long battle and survived it, but was very weakened but the treatments.  Still he was well on his way back when his wife Chris was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.   She lost her battle and Don started to go down hill, eventually moving into an assisted living facility.


On Friday Don got his reward and went on to be with the Lord and Chris and many other friends we’ve lost and that are now in Paradise.


I’m not sure if you can see anything going on down here in Heaven, but if you happen to read this entry here goes;



Thank you for being such a wonderful friend, for making me laugh until my sides split, for sharing so generously all the people whose lives you touched and allowed me to know them too.  Thank you for the countless ways you made me a better man, built my confidence and made me so thankful we met.  I will be along in a while, and I can’t wait to get another of your famous bear hugs and share old stories!  If it’s not too much to ask could you meet me at the gate and show me around, if I know you, and I do, you will have it all down pat!  I love you Don, thanks for all your kindness, compassion and teaching me so much.  Hug Chris for me and all those friends of ours that are there with you. I’m thankful that your earthly trials are over now!  You were one of the best we ever had down here!  Until later,


Your friend





P.S.  I did not have a photo of Don in my files as I am traveling, the flag says everything good about you, hope that works!?

6 Responses

  1. Very well stated. We lost Don 11 years and two days after Hugh passed — one a day before the Nature Photography Weekend and the other a day into it. Your tribute was quite modest although Don was as well. So many people accomplished good things because of Don yet he neither sought credit. Don was personally modest as well. I met up with Don a couple of times when he was on the road for Pentax. Staying at a Hampton Inn was his idea of “fancy.” Although Don had a lot of good stories he personally was the most humble and least pretentious person I ever knew. The brother you wish you had and the friend you’re glad you did. Our friend Ed Tyler wrote that the word “quit” was not in Don’s vocabulary. As painful as it was for us to see Don’s health struggles it must have been substantially more devastating for him.

    In large measure, however, I am not sure — and I sure hope — that we had not “lost” Don because in his life he did so much to inspire, encourage and facilitate others that his spirit (including the penchant for provocative and seldom politically correct humor) carries on through us and those that we may similarly inspire and encourage. This past weekend when Scott from the booth occasionally read one of Don’s jokes it was fitting that we just heard the voice. It was both a different voice and the same one at the same time. We have not truly lost this good man and I hope and pray that we never do. Godspeed, faithful servant and friend.

  2. Pete says:

    I met Don when he move to DC and was my Nikon Rep He bought me many lunches
    taught me great tips on selling and how to take care of our customers was a wonderful man. When he worked for EPOI in DC before the Navy he memorized the WHOLE catalog he will be missed

  3. Dennis Mook says:

    Bill, thanks for the update. I am truly saddened by Don’s passing. You and I were just talking about Don at the GSM Summit last October. I knew Don from his times as a Nikon rep visiting Colorcraft in Norfolk many, many years ago. I was just a nobody Nikon enthusiast but Don would take all the time I wanted to answer all my questions and give me guidance. I lost track of him but I never forgot how well he treated me. He was one of the kindest individuals I have ever met. He was one of a kind.

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