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Lyle Nelson, former Star-Bulletin staff writer and avid athlete, dies at 99

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  • COURTESY PHOTO
                                Lyle Nelson shows off his race bib after completing the Honolulu Marathon in 2010. Nelson, a longtime Honolulu Star-Bulletin staff writer, avid sportsman and World War II veteran, died Nov. 11 at Pohai Nani in Ka­ne­ohe. He was 99.

    COURTESY PHOTO

    Lyle Nelson shows off his race bib after completing the Honolulu Marathon in 2010. Nelson, a longtime Honolulu Star-Bulletin staff writer, avid sportsman and World War II veteran, died Nov. 11 at Pohai Nani in Ka­ne­ohe. He was 99.

Lyle Nelson — a longtime Honolulu Star-Bulletin staff writer, avid sportsman and World War II veteran — died Nov. 11 at Pohai Nani in Ka­ne­ohe. He was 99.

Born in Ann Arbor, Mich., Lyle Emerson Nelson grew up near the University of Michigan football stadium and became an avid supporter of the University of Michigan Wolverines. Military service in World War II brought Nelson to Hawaii aboard the destroyer tender USS Sierra (AD 18).

Nelson’s nephew, Nathan Wong, said Nelson had expected to go into the Army, but by the time the physicians at the examination station got to him, they had filled their quota and sent him to the Navy instead. That twist of fate shaped the rest of his life.

Discharged from the Navy in 1946, Nelson returned to Michigan to attend the University of Michigan on the GI Bill, earning a degree in journalism. He then returned to the isles in 1950 and got a job at the Star-Bulletin.

John Simonds, former managing editor of the Star-Bulletin, described Nelson as a general assignment reporter who had an “encyclopedic knowledge and memory on many topics. It was always interesting to talk to him about world events, politics, sports … and classical music. He was a devotee of the Hawaii Opera Theatre and the Hono­lulu Symphony — he actually wrote reviews at one point a long time ago. He was also a fan of the old Hawaii Islanders (minor league baseball team), particularly when they played at the old Honolulu Stadium.”

Honolulu Star-Advertiser columnist David Shapiro remembered Nelson as a man respected in the newsroom and in the community.

“Lyle was a tall guy with a big purposeful stride that was evident when he stalked a story,” Shapiro said in an email. “He’d try a million different ways to get the information he wanted if necessary. I once saw him search the big Hilton Hawaiian Village tower floor by floor when he heard an item on the police radio about a possible murder.

“I worked with him on the slow Sunday shift for a couple of years when I was just starting out, and he taught me an immense amount about newspapering, just sitting around and talking.”

Nelson left the Star- Bulletin in the early 1980s but continued to freelance for the paper in subsequent years.

Outside the newsroom Nelson was an avid athlete. He began running marathons in his 50s and continued into his mid-80s.

“He felt very strongly that running those marathons was why he was still alive and kicking,” Wong said. “By his count he ran 21 marathons.”

Golfing was another of Nelson’s passions; his knowledge of the game extended to the history of the courses he played on, the scores of notable people who had played them and changes that had been made in the courses since they first opened. He was known for preferring to walk the courses even if others were riding golf carts.

Kathy Brown remembers Nelson as a talented pianist. They met when Brown and her husband bought a home across the street from Nelson’s vacation home in Waimea on the Big Island.

“He and his wife were huge supporters of the Hono­lulu Symphony, and he played beautiful classical music on the piano that they had up here. They didn’t have cable or telephone in their Waimea house, and so they would just read and play the piano. And I’d sit across the street and just be serenaded by beautiful piano music.”

She added that the only times she saw Nelson ride a golf cart was when it was raining.

“He was one of the most generous and kind men I ever met. Always so unassuming, and full of wonder about everything. Listening to his stories about all of his interviews and the places he’d been was easy. We lost a good one.”

Nelson is survived by several nieces and nephews.

Funeral services are pending.

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