Hundreds of people gathered in the Fireside Inn ballroom as Rob Taylor, executive director of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Dave Nelson. Having initially come to the gala to celebrate the Chamber and take photos, Dave had been surprised to arrive and see his name in the program when he first saw it; now, just a few minutes later, he joined Taylor on stage to receive his recognition.
Dave is a rare find: previously a marketing rep for a motor oil business (what his wife calls his “real job”), Dave’s passion for most of his life has rested in both photography and writing. Indeed, his byline has appeared here in the Lebanon Times frequently over the years attached to contributions of both sorts. When he discovered that he could get paid to do what he had already been doing as a hobby, he was elated. “I’m proof of that saying, that if you love your job, you never work a day in your life,” he boasts. Dave quickly began freelancing, and his stories and photos have appeared in numerous publications, including a first article in Vermont Life that Dave recalls fondly. “I never cashed that check,” he tells me.
Dave turns the camera on himself for a rare selfie shot.
Dave is a self-described “sports junkie.” He has worked as a sports columnist for a weekly paper serving southern Vermont, and spent a decade as motorsports writer for the Eagle Times of Claremont. He is occasionally a sportscaster for radio and television. In high school he was a “three sport person,” and he still plays tennis multiple times a week. But he’s also a Renaissance man, happy to branch out into other subjects as they arise. It was about a year ago, he recalls, as he was photographing the decorations at Colburn Park, that Dave first met Rob Taylor, who stopped to introduce himself and mention his new position at the Chamber. Dave offered his services as a photographer. He was pleasantly surprised, shortly thereafter, to find his photos not merely in occasional digital media but also featured in the Chamber’s annual print brochure.
Dave takes his passion for photography outdoors.
Given the quality of his work, and his readiness to provide it for various causes, it is no surprise Dave was named Volunteer of the Year. He just celebrated his 75th birthday, and after a very busy life that left little time to give to the community, he is glad to donate his talents to organizations including the Chamber and the Upper Valley Trails Alliance. He is also a prolific volunteer contributor to Lebanon Times, as well as to sister publications Norwich Times and Quechee Times, with many great articles and photographs appearing in all three for years. And he still has yet to slow down. He is “retired,” he tells me, emphasizing that this term requires quotation marks. In light of his many hobbies and projects, he quips, “I should go back to work so I can get some rest!”Though Dave was born in Windsor, he didn’t grow up there. The son of a career army officer, he moved regularly throughout his youth – to Germany, South Carolina, Texas, and more – before moving back to Windsor and then to Quail Hollow in Lebanon. Initially choosing his current residence for the proximity to Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Dave has since come to love the vibrant and varied Lebanon community. “All these seniors have such great stories,” he observes, recalling those of neighbors ranging from Colonel Clint Granger, about whom Dave wrote a profile in the Lebanon Times in 2013, to a Nashville photographer with a who’s-who list of previous celebrity clients. In this context, one thing is certain: Dave continues to have plenty of stories to tell.