Chappy Nelson, far right, watches a Bowdoin College football game from the sidelines. Nelson, a longtime equipment manager, who was also an umpire in Maine for over 40 years, died last week. He was 64. Photo provided by Bowdoin College

Chappell “Chappy” Nelson spent the bulk of his life working behind the scenes.

But to colleagues and friends of the longtime equipment manager and baseball umpire — who worked for Colby College in Waterville for 31 years and the past seven at Bowdoin College in Brunswick — his service and dedication never went unnoticed.

“What stands out is how wonderful of a person he was,” said Bowdoin Athletic Director Tim Ryan. “He tried to make everybody else’s life and experience better. He wasn’t someone who was looking for a lot of accolades or anything along those lines, but he loved being around teams and coaches and athletes. He was the type of person where, you’d walk into your office one day, and there might be a little (present) on your desk from him. He wouldn’t be looking for a thank you or anything like that. He just liked to make people feel rewarded. We’re going to miss him quite a bit for sure. He was quite the guy.”

Nelson, a Lawrence High School and Colby graduate, died last week in Levant, six months before his impending retirement from Bowdoin. He was 64.

“He was a tremendous friend to baseball, and a friend to me,” said longtime friend and retired umpire Phil St. Onge. “He’s a part of our family. You never found anyone who said a bad word about Chappy. Never. People really enjoyed seeing him coming their way… He was the best friend you could ever ask for. If you called him in the middle of the night and told him you’d need to get bailed out of jail, you could count on him.”

Colby hired Nelson to be its equipment manager in 1985, after he received his master’s degree from Ohio State University. Often a thankless job, involving long hours of fixing equipment and doing laundry for each of the school’s athletic teams, Nelson was noted as a dedicated employee to the school. Nelson also served as a longtime assistant with the Colby baseball team. Nelson’s roots with the school ran deep. His mother, Carleen Nelson, was an administrative secretary in the admissions office for more than 51 years.


Chappy Nelson, a longtime equipment manager for Colby College and Bowdoin College, died last week at 64. Nelson was also an umpire in Maine for over 40 years.

“He was a great employee, a wonderful worker and a dear friend,” said former Colby men’s basketball coach and New England Basketball Hall of Famer Dick Whitmore. “I was umpiring baseball games when he was in high school. He never changed. He had a wonderful demeanor, he worked well with coaches, he worked well with students. He was just a valuable member of our department.”

Nick Lamia had a successful hockey career at Colby, recording 142 points (63 goals, 79 assists) from 1993-1997. He also worked under Nelson as a student employee in the equipment room during the offseason.

“I did the laundry for the athletic department, and it was the perfect setup for me, because I studied while I worked,” Lamia said. “We hit it off. He was more than a boss, he was a mentor and one of the nicest guys of all time. He just took me underneath his wing… He was a very patient guy and could just do the job in his sleep. He took pride in it, and it was fun. I loved spending time with him. I’d meet up with him (after college) in (Las) Vegas from time to time. He loved baseball, and he would send me pictures from games he would go to, who he talked to, who he met.”

Lamia’s friendship with Nelson lasted long after his graduation. A financial planner with Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri, Lamia helped Nelson with his retirement planning.

“I was honored and privileged, of the 100s and 1,000s of kids he’s known over the years, it means the world that I was the one person that Chappy entrusted with his (financial planning),” Lamia said.

In 2016, Nelson became equipment manager at Bowdoin, a rival of Colby’s in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). Though the scenery changed, Nelson’s dedication to the job never wavered.


“He loved what he did and the kids and coaches were his family,” said Jamie Dumont, formerly the women’s hockey coach at Bowdoin who worked under Nelson as an assistant equipment manager. “You talk about a true servant, probably one of the best this business has ever had, you’ve got to look at Chap. As a coach, he was an outstanding colleague. He was as good a mentor and co-worker as I’ve ever been around.”

Nelson was also a baseball umpire for over 40 years in Maine. A member of the Kennebec-Somerset Baseball Umpires Association, Nelson was also the secretary/treasurer of the State of Maine Umpire Association. His final game was the Class B baseball championship on June 15 at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, with Yarmouth beating Caribou 8-1.

“I think we’ve done 10 regional championships together, and he’s been on at least four of my state championship crews,” said Kevin Joyce, a member of the Maine Principals’ Association baseball committee who worked the Class B game with Nelson. “He always had a smile on his face and was a great guy. This is a tough loss for all of us. Like myself, we wear many hats. I know he’s the assignor up there (with the Kennebec-Somerset association). For the state association that we all belong to, he’s been our secretary/treasurer for a good 20 years. We don’t know what we’re going to do (without him). He took care of everything.”

Off the field, Nelson was known by friends for being frugal with his money.

Chappy Nelson, left, helps a Bowdoin College football player with his equipment during a game. Nelson, a longtime equipment manager at Colby College and Bowdoin, died last week. He was 64. Photo provided by Bowdoin College

“He would find the best sale, he knew the best prices (on items),” St. Onge said. “He knew the best prices on gas. He knew the best prices on soda, he’d buy it in the cup.”

“We were down (in Georgia three weeks ago) at a convention and went over to see the Atlanta Braves,” Dumont added. “Through his networking with baseball, we were able to get to the VIP/hospitality section. Knowing Chap, every free item that came through the door to be able to take, he grabbed, whether it was Cracker Jacks, fruit cups or peanuts. Here we are, walking back to the hotel from the ballpark with bags and bags of food that he didn’t want to see thrown away, and I was like, ‘Chap, we don’t need three bags of Cracker Jacks, we’ll be all set.’ But that was Chap.”

One of St. Onge’s favorite memories of Nelson was when they visited Charlotte, North Carolina to see mutual friend Steve Clifford, who at the time was the head coach of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets. The trio became friends in their youth at the Pine Tree Basketball Camp, run by Whitmore and fellow Hall of Fame coach Dick Meader.

“Steve would always take us (to dinner) at the Capital Grille (in Charlotte), down the street from his apartment,” St. Onge said. “(One night), it’s a big bill. I told Chappy, we need to treat Steve this time, it’s our time (to pay). We get the bill and it’s about $400. I’ll never forget the look on Chappy’s face when he got that check. That was worth every penny of it, just to see his face. He paid it, but boy he didn’t like it.”

A memorial service for Nelson will be held at Colby on July 6 at 11 a.m.

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