Honor 29 released Sun-Times photojournalists
Ann Gerber receives ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at CJA’s 74th Annual Award Dinner
By Allen Rafalson
You might say it was a picture-perfect evening as our Chicago Jounalists Association honored recently released Chicago Sun-Times photojournalists and Ann Gerber, perhaps the nation’s longest-running newspaper columnist. The presentations took place at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza on Sept.27,2013.
More than 100 guests attended the event, which moved swiftly as Holy Name Cathedral Deacon Michael McCloskey gave the invocation and entertainer Ellen Balmadrid sang our national anthem. They were immediately followed by presentations to winners of the Sarah Brown Boyden competition. Eleven of the 14 awards went to Sun-Times journalists, while the remaining three were claimed by the Chicago Tribune. Sun-Times staffers Frank Main, Kim Janssen and Dan Mihalopoulos shared the $500 “Best of Best” honor for their Chicago Under Fire series.
Left to right: Ann Gerber, Sun-Times photgraphers, Emcee Dave Plier hosts the CJA Awards Dinner
DePaul University sophomore Gabriella Mikiewicz was recipient of our $1,250 scholarship presented by CJA Charitable Fund president Karen Petitte. The award goes every year to either a high school or college student seeking a journalism career. It was a solemn moment as emcee David Plier paid tribute to journalists who lost their lives covering stories in 2013. VanderCook College of Music student followed with the playing of Amazin’ Grace.
No doubt, the highlight of the evening belonged to the photojournalists and Gerber. In his commentary, CJA President Allen Rafalson expressed his gratitude to former Sun-Times video reporter Jon Sall for his assistance in the ceremony attended by 15 of the 29 photographers.
Each received a Chicago Journalist of the Year Award. “This award is our tribute to these men and women for their exemplary and memorable documentation of Chicago’s stories throughout the decades,” Rafalson said. Sall thanked CJA for the recognition. He said it brings final closure for us.
It was evident that Gerber had her fans. Approximately 40 men and women watched as she received the Lifetime Achievement Award. She started writing her column in 1950 for the Lerner Homes Newspapers, which originally consisted of 54 weekly and semi-weekly newspapers. Ten years later, she was writing a society gossip column for Skyline, the company’s newest weekly covering the city’s Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, the Loop and Near North Side neighborhoods. She’s been a fixture ever since.
“She has written about Chicago’s diverse community of celebrities and politicians and never been afraid to express an opinion” Rafalson said. “She is a complete journalist whose recognition has been long overdue.”
Services to be held for former Sun-Times news editor Vanderpoel
Susan Nelson — reporter, editor and teacher — dies at 71
President's note: “Susan joined our Chicago Journalists Association board of directors several years ago and immediately assumed the vacated secretarial post,” president Allen Rafalson said. “She took great pride in submitting our monthly minutes, which were always accurate and, frankly, the best piece of reporting we had seen in many a year. Susan was a tireless director who also took great pride in helping select the winners of our annual Charitable Fund scholarships. The announcement of her sudden death came as a surprise, although we had learned of her illness last year and thought she was on the road to recovery. Little did we know. Like many of her friends, we remain in disbelief.”
BY ROSALIND ROSSI Staff Reporter February 27, 2014 9:26PM<.p>
Susan Nelson loved a well-turned phrase.
As a Chicago Tribune reporter, textbook editor and writing teacher, Ms. Nelson had a special talent with words, friends and colleagues say.
Even in her final days, as she battled lung cancer, the Lincoln Park resident cherished reading the New York Times and listening to National Public Radio.
“Words were the thing in the end," said longtime friend and journalist Jim Tuohy, co-author of “Greylord: Justice, Chicago Style.” “Written, but also spoken. She liked to listen to NPR. She had the radio on all the time."
Ms. Nelson, who died Wednesday at a Near North Side retirement and rehabilitation residence at age 71, worked a stint as a reporter for the Indianapolis Times before joining the Chicago Tribune in the mid-1960s.
At the time, most women were automatically relegated to features rather than hard news, recalled former Tribune colleague Pat Terry. Female Trib newcomers would be asked, “Would you like to be on society, fashion or cooking?” Terry said.
In features, Ms. Nelson was an assistant fashion editor; entertainment writer; feature writer; and writer of offbeat columns. Then, she landed a promotion to the Sunday Chicago Tribune Magazine — a highly prestigious and plum assignment in those days.
Ms. Nelson was one of the first women to work on the magazine, serving as both a writer and editor, said Pat Terry and her husband, Cliff Terry, a former Tribune feature writer.
The dual role was a feather in Ms. Nelson’s cap, Cliff Terry said, because “most people were one or the other.’’ Ms. Nelson also was a “fearless traveler” who would “go places alone that strong men would take bodyguards to,’’ Tuohy said.
In 1976, after leaving the Tribune, Ms. Nelson happened to be visiting Guatemala alone when an earthquake hit, killing 23,000 and injuring 76,000.
“She went into her reporter mode,” Tuohy said. “She started taking notes and interviewing people in Spanish.”
Then she called the Trib — offering to cover the earthquake as a freelancer, but they turned her down, Tuohy said.
But Chicago Sun-Times editor and publisher James Hoge Jr. was interested, Tuohy said. The Sun-Times ran four stories by Ms. Nelson out of Guatemala and “she was very proud of that," Tuohy said.
Over the years, Ms. Nelson wrote or edited articles for Esquire, the Washington Post, the Chicago Reader, Encyclopedia Britannica, World Book and Reader’s Digest. Most recently, she worked as a freelance writer. She also was an adjunct writing instructor at Columbia College.
From 1998 to 2005, Ms. Nelson taught everything from writing to science as a teacher at three Chicago Public Schools. She spent her own money to decorate her classrooms, which were inviting, inspiring spaces filled with students’ art, friends said.
The job had its challenges. Once, a student threw a heavy pencil sharpener at her, knocking off her glasses and just missing her eye, Tuohy recalled.
Within months, she left CPS and became an editor at Pearson Education and Scott Foresman in Glenview, where she edited a national book for sixth-graders that included her description of the comeback of a Kansas town she had visited after a tornado.
Ms. Nelson, a native of South Bend, Ind., was the daughter of a doctor and a piano teacher. She played the flute and some piano and was an early member of the Jazz Institute of Chicago. She had an “encyclopedic knowledge of jazz,’’ said friend and playwright Vicki Quade.
One of Ms. Nelson’s favorite Sunday rituals was walking to her Lincoln Park Starbucks and buying a Sunday New York Times, said Janet Harvey, her sister. She loved to read, was a book club member and always gave the family books as gifts, Harvey said.
She also was a regular reader of the New Yorker, and even gave New Yorker subscriptions as gifts. Ms. Nelson sent beautifully written thank-you notes for “any sort of little gesture," Tuohy said. When someone took ill, Ms. Nelson was there, recalled friend and political consultant Don Rose.
“She was probably the most compassionate and caring person I’ve ever met," Rose said. “She was always the first person to visit people in the hospital, or to help friends out when they were ill." In 2009, Ms. Nelson was a founding member of the Lincoln Park Village, a membership collaborative for those 50 and older. She volunteered to edit its monthly newsletter. Village members share their skills and talents with other members for free, and Ms. Nelson was always “giving, giving, giving,” recalled Dianne Campbell, the group’s founding director.
“I think she loved being part of something bigger than herself — a larger community,’’ Campbell said. About 15 months ago, when Ms. Nelson was diagnosed with lung cancer, Lincoln Park Village members were there for her. They drove her to doctors’ appointments, various treatments and even the emergency room, and they helped her find a rehab center, Campbell said. Ms. Nelson faced her battle with cancer with courage and grace, friends recalled.
“She bore the news of her cancer, her treatments, the loss of her hair, the change in her voice, all with grace,"Quade said. “I never heard her complain about what was happening to her." As much as possible, she refused to let up in her schedule, taking a long-dreamed trip to Italy, attending a jazz cruise and throwing a party for friends at the Jazz Showcase.“She would not give in" Tuohy said. “She just faced it and she never complained. In addition to her sister, Ms. Nelson is survived by a brother, Dr. Robert Nelson; five nephews, and two nieces.
A memorial service is planned for March 22, at DePaul University Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden, tentatively at 3 p.m.
Letter from the President
January 27, 2014 Our journalism organization continues to survive. But how long?
Save the Date to Celebrate 75!
The 75th Anniversary Dinner of the Chicago Journalist Association will be Friday, October 17, 2014 at the Holiday Inn Mart. Mark your Calendar and help us put on a great celebration! Contact Allen if you want to get involved!