Local Leaders and Friends Reflect on Paul Nelson's Life and Legacy
If you visited Waldameer Park, chances are you saw owner Paul Nelson riding around on his golf cart.
As Pam Forsyth, the General Manager of Lilly Broadcasting remembers, "You saw him every single day on that golf cart, rain or shine, and always checking on things."
Whether it was around the park or at community events, Nelson was there, on his cart. John Barber, the President of the Barber National Institute recalled, "He also came out to the Beast on the Bay every year, personally, he was there rolling along on his golf cart and continuing to work and if he ever saw a candy wrapper on the ground he would pick it up himself."
Barber started working with Nelson ten years ago when they wanted to bring the Beast on the Bay to Waldameer. Nelson was on board right away.
As Barber explained, "The things he did for persons with intellectual disabilities and Autism really is something he never sought any recognition for."
The adaptive course for Barber Center students found its home at Waldameer and Water World thanks to Nelson and he made sure students and their families had special time at the park.
As Barber remembered, "He said we are going to have to test this out, why don't we make it so we have some special times for some of the Barber Center kids and families to come out and do it."
Nelson always cared about the community, making sure everyone could enjoy the park, no matter their background. "Charity, is a big, it's probably the one word I would keep thinking of because he not only helped non-profits but he didn't want to charge for people to come into the park when grandmas and grandpas, moms and dads wanted to bring their little ones and he didn't want to have that burden on anybody", said Forsyth.
Community leaders said Nelson's generosity will be missed, but his legacy won't be forgotten. "If I could follow his example, just a little bit, the world would be better, the community would be better, I would be better", said Barber.
Waldameer's neighbor, Presque Isle State Park's Park Operations Manager, Matt Greene also released a statement on Nelson's passing:
"First and foremost, the parks thoughts and prayers are with Paul’s family. We extend our sympathy and condolences to them.
The Erie community has lost a great man. Paul always kept the community at the forefront of his thought process while running Waldameer Park. From keeping a day at the park affordable for families, to donating portions of land to ensure community infrastructure, Paul’s projects happened for everyone’s betterment. There are so many things that Paul did to try and help the Erie community, that many may never know about. He was truly a community-minded business owner, a visionary, and a great neighbor to Presque Isle State Park. Paul will be sorely missed."