OBITUARY: Rick William Nelson

Rick William Nelson

Aug. 12, 1949 – Dec. 16, 2020

Rick William Nelson, 71, the former owner and editor of The Malheur Enterprise, died Dec. 16 of pancreatic cancer.

Nelson was a copy editor at The News Tribune in Tacoma when he bought the Enterprise in 2006, likely saving it from folding. In his nine years of ownership, with a small staff, he transformed the paper’s layout and brought it into modern graphics design.

Erik Lacitis, a Seattle Times reporter, helped Nelson in those initial issues.

“He had to learn, and learn quickly, all the little details. Those were 18-hour days,” he said.

Nelson had two brothers who lived in the area and greatly appreciated its people and outdoors.

Nelson traveled back and forth between his home in Federal Way, Washington, and Vale. On vacations in his RV, he’d edit the paper after finding a wi-fi hotspot.

He was well-read and a natural story-teller, and could tell tales from his reading and also from his life: his pride in his Native American heritage, his experiences driving a taxi in Seattle, or bartending in Harlem. 

Nelson’s wife, Kelly Balmer Williams Nelson, 74, died Nov. 15 of cancer. A few days later, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. As he had done with everything in his life, he faced it head on. He began itemizing his book collection, as to who’d want the ones on history, the ones on politics. He put together the hundreds of music stories he had written over the years for Puget Sound newspapers. 

Nelson’s main employment had been in journalism.

From 1987 to 2009 he was a copy editor at The News Tribune in Tacoma, while also a prolific writer of music columns.

His colleagues remembered him with fondness.

“I used to love when we’d have a break in editing copy, and Rick would turn to me and say, Did I ever tell you about the time …,” said Kate DeWeese. And another story would come out. “I think everyone in the newsroom had a moment like that with Rick. He was a master storyteller.”

Nelson was born Aug. 12, 1949 in Eugene, Oregon. His mother, Irma Grout, had six sons from two marriages. He is survived by two of them, Lenard Landreth, of Santa Maria, California, and Gaylerd Landreth, of Harper, Oregon.

There will be no services. 

LEARN HOW TO PLACE AN OBITUARY: Contact Autumn Butler, Enterprise office manager, at [email protected] or call 514-473-3377.