11/1/2017 8:30:00 AM Remembering newspaperman Don Jellison
Don Jellison was former sports writer for The Times, former editor and sports editor for the Noblesville Daily Ledger and former sports writer for Hamilton County Reporter, where he and his son went to work together publishing a daily online newspaper and a weekly print edition.
The Times photos by Betsy Reason
Noblesvilleís Don Jellison in 2016 was named Noblesville High School Alumni Associationís Alumnus of the Year.
The former Noblesville Daily Ledger sports editor, then editor, hired me right out of college for my first job.
When Don moved on from The Ledger, he soon found another place to write. The Noblesville Daily Times, then The Times. And then at the Hamilton County Reporter, where he and his son, Jeff Jellison, together took to publishing a daily online newspaper and a weekly print edition.
Yes, Don operated a competing newspaper. But that didn't stop me from writing this column.
And today, I share the sad news. Noblesville's Don Jellison died on Sunday. He was 80.
If there was ever anybody who knew "everything" about sports in Hamilton County, it was Don.
When he wrote, people read his stories, his game coverage, his viewpoints. No matter where he went, everyone seemed to know his name, or to some, just plain "Jelly."
The 1955 Noblesville High School graduate - who coached Noblesville Babe Ruth Baseball for more than 30 years - reported on high school sports for more than 50 years. And during those years, he wrote about the accomplishments of thousands of Hamilton County high school student athletes.
In 2016, Don was named NHS Alumnus of the Year at the annual NHS Alumni Association banquet. Thanks to a news tip, I interviewed Don just days prior to the award announcement over lunch at Noblesville Jim Dandy.
He was likely wondering why I invited him to lunch and was asking a lot of questions.
Like Don, I didn't carry a notebook. But unlike Don, I carried my audio recorder, conspicuously concealed on my iPhone. He talked to me for almost 90 minutes about his life. But later, he revealed his sneaking suspicion that was I was up to something. He was correct; because I was writing the speech about Don that would be read at the Alumni Banquet.
He was a great newspaperman whose passion began as a youth.
While in high school, he worked for The Times, writing sports. He also wrote sports for The Ledger; one time during the sectional, he didn't yet have his driver's license and rode to the game with the principal and coach.
He spent two years at Earlham College, and was the night sports editor at the Richmond newspaper, before returning to Noblesville as the editor of the Hamiltenian tabloid newspaper.
When he worked at The Ledger writing sports, he also worked at the Boys Club in Noblesville, then located on the Square above Kirk Hardware. He also helped start a Boys Club in Cicero. And he and his son started a basketball league at the Boys Club, running 45 teams.
He became the sports editor and then the editor for The Ledger, for which he spent countless hours covering sporting events, interviewing players, and writing commentary on high school student athletes.
When he was at The Ledger, he would switch hats from editor to sports writer in a jiffy. He would get up from his editor's desk, and he would walk to the back of The Ledger office, to the Sports Department, and get on a computer and sit there for hours, pecking away, writing about sports, a love he still had.
Don Jellison's high-school sports columns were always well-read. He wrote about hometown people playing sports. Plain and simple. Anything that came into his head.
It's quite likely that most any athlete in Noblesville's last 50 years has saved a newspaper clipping with Don's by-line.
While he had a way with written words, he wasn't a big talker. Kind of a quiet guy.
I remember when he hired me right out of college, after an interview in his Noblesville Daily Ledger office. My first assignment was covering Carmel High School graduation. The story was written and published. But there was no response from Don. I was told by coworkers that if Don Jellison didn't say anything, that meant you were doing a good job. A few days later, Don called me to his sports desk, where he was at the computer, and he turned to me and said, "Good job on that graduation story." .... What a relief.
Yes, a man of few spoken words. But thousands of written words. Thousands of stories. Thousands of columns.
If you saw Don out covering NHS basketball games during the 2015-16 season, he was sitting at his own little card table in the corner of The Mill, keeping stats, taking notes, to go back and write a story. But the funny part is whenever you would see Don out covering events, you would rarely see him with a notebook, or writing anything down, as if he could write like the wind from memory. Maybe he could. Because writing sports was a gift.
Over the years, Don earned several awards.
He was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Hall of Fame.
He received the Indiana District III Basketball Coaches Award for his outstanding contributions to Indiana high school basketball in 1983.
He was the 1988-89 IHSAA Distinguished Media Service award winner (for District III).
He was named to the Hamilton County Basketball Hall of Fame during the 2003-04 season.
He said his biggest achievement was being inducted into the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004 for his significant contributions to high school basketball.
Don was not only a sports writer but a beloved citizen and dedicated servant to Noblesville.
And to the youth of Hamilton County.
Don "lived and died" Babe Ruth Baseball for more than 30 years, as a coach in the Noblesville program. As a Babe Ruth Baseball state commissioner for 25 years, he built the program from 44 to 270 leagues. Jellison, himself, played baseball in high school at NHS.
In one of Don's columns, he wrote, "Noblesville has become a community of winners, a community of champions. Both on and off the athletic field."
Don had a way with words. There was no doubt.
But one of my favorite quotes was when he said: "I've always felt a responsibility to the Noblesville community to put out a good newspaper."
And he did. And that's one of the reasons I always admired him.
Funeral services will be at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Randall & Roberts Funeral Center, 1685 Westfield Road, Noblesville, with Pastor Terry Coomer officiating. Visitation will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Read Don Jellison's obituary and reaction from the community in today's edition of The Times.