The Obit For Hughie Nelson

Legendary athlete, remarkable personality Nelson will be missed in Beverly

By Jean DePlacido
The Salem News
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hughie Nelson was not only an outstanding athlete — so talented he was chosen as a member of the inaugural Beverly High Sports Hall of Fame back in 2003 — but was a tremendous person as well.

A former football and baseball star of the 1930s at Beverly High, Nelson passed away last week at the age of 94 and will be missed by his many friends in the Garden City.

"He was a great individual and he lived a good life," said former Panther athletic director and equipment manager Red Hutt, who worked with Nelson as a molder in the foundry of the old United Shoe Machinery Corp. in Beverly.

"Hughie used to joke at work 'Where else could you find three members of the Hall of Fame working together but in the foundry?' John Carratu was a melter and Hughie and I were molders — and all of us are in the Beverly Hall of Fame.

"When I became AD at the high school, Hughie asked me what I needed. He was always there to help in any way he could."

Nelson was born in Scotland but grew up in Beverly, where he captained both the football and baseball teams in his senior year.

A strong-armed quarterback and a fine kicker as well, Nelson will always be remembered by Orange-and-Black football fans for ending the team's long scoreless streak against arch-rival Salem on Thanksgiving morning in 1935, when he caught a touchdown pass.

He was an outstanding pitcher who was scouted by the Detroit Tigers and drafted by the club after graduating high school. Nelson played for the Tigers' minor league team in the East Coast League in Pocomoke, Md. for two years before throwing his arm out.

'Everyone knew and loved him'

According to Hutt, Nelson then joined the Army and served in the Pacific, earning a Purple Heart in the Phillipines while also spending time in Japan. After the service, he came back to Beverly and worked at 'The Shoe' for over 40 years.

"He was a member of the Beverly Golf & Tennis team, and was one of the best golfers around with a 2-handicap," recalled Hutt. "I think the golf course was his second home.

"Hughie supported Beverly High athletics his whole life, especially football and lacrosse. He and Scotchie Winchester liked to sit on the sunny (i.e., visitors) side of Hurd Stadium, and he would call me up before the Thanksgiving Games at Hurd to make sure I got him seats on the Salem side around the 10-yard-line. That whole section was always filled with Beverly people."

After serving in the Army, Nelson came home to Beverly and married Peggy Healey. They had 64 wonderful years together, a son Brian and three grandchildren. He played football for town teams in Danvers, Haverhill, Ipswich and Peabody.

"I was eight years younger and lived on the next street to where Hughie grew up," said Peggy Nelson. "Everyone knew him and loved him. He had a great sense of humor, and he just loved sports. He never missed a game, especially football. And he thought it was wonderful to be in the first Hall of Fame class."

Athletic, personable and beloved

Bill Poole, chairman of the Beverly High Sports Hall of Fame committee, received a nice thank you note from Hugh and Peggy, saying how nice it was to have the family there to see "Grampa Hughie" recognized as part of the school's first HOF class.

Poole recalled going to Nelson's house to interview him before finalizing selections for the initial class.

"I got to know Hughie quite well," said Poole. "He was an ordinary guy, typical of many from that era who worked every day and was not at all pretentious.

"He was an exceptional athlete, very gracious, and soft spoken — somebody you would want for a neighbor and would invite to your house for Thanksgiving dinner. He was very proud to be in that first class — and he certainly deserved to be there."

Long-time and highly successful Beverly High football coach Bill Hamor said Nelson will be dearly missed in the community.

"He was a great citizen in Beverly and a very positive person," said Hamor, who was inducted into the 2003 BHS Hall with Nelson. "I coached his son in hockey and we were friends for a lot of years.

"Hughie was just a great guy, who never forgot where he came from. Beverly was very important to him, and he followed sports in the community closely. He knew all the kids and their successes."

Hamor said he had heard about his accomplishments through the years, and that Nelson was "definitely the kind of athlete I would have loved to coach."

"He was so well known; everybody knew him, and he looked so young and healthy until his dying day," said Hamor. "(Nelson) used to tell me stories about guys that played with him and before him.

"He lived a good long healthy life and was one of the great athletes of his day. More importantly, he was a fine person. If you didn't know Hughie, he soon became your immediate friend; a personable man who was always a pleasure to chat with and will be missed by many Beverlyites.

"He was one of the old legends."