Office boy to dependable journalist: Union Leader remembers Al Nettel

New Hampshire Union Leader
August 04. 2018 6:48PM

MANCHESTER - Al Nettel did it all in the news business.

And by all accounts, he enjoyed himself and excelled at every level.

At 12 years old, Nettel co-founded the Goffe's Falls Junior Reporter. After a six-year career covering sports at Central High, followed by his obtaining a degree in English literature from the University of New Hampshire, the Union Leader hired Nettel as an office boy, where he had the distinct honor of fetching missing belts for reporters and feeding parking meters for editors who hadn't driven to work.

Such persistence through the mundane and maniacal would serve Nettel well over his 42-year career with this newspaper, during which he covered sports, city hall and anything else that came his way.

"Al Nettel was a fine general assignment reporter for the Union Leader," Publisher Joe McQuaid said. "You could throw him into any story, day or night, no matter the subject, and know he would come back with a cogent, understandable piece, on deadline."

It was Nettel's honest attitude that helped him gain respect even from difficult quarters, said sources who had worked with him outside the newspaper.

Mark Driscoll was Manchester's police chief from 1996 to 2003 and he worked frequently with Nettel, who was on the crime beat at the time. When Nettel moved on to a different assignment, Driscoll called McQuaid and asked him to reconsider.

"I said, 'Joe, what's going on?'?" Driscoll said. "I really believed that Al gathered more information just by his demeanor and the way he worked with people. I was very disappointed when he moved on from the police. ... He was a class act. He was trusted by all members of the police department. We enjoyed working with him."

In the newsroom, colleagues remembered him as a joy to work with, a man with a particular talent for knowing when to insert a bad pun or wield a gentle pen.

"The compassion Al often showered on stories he composed, as well as news incidents he wrote about, and covered so well, was only outdistanced by the Irish humor he injected into daily conversations with his newsroom colleagues," former editor and community relations manager Don Anderson said. "It placed him a cut above the rest when it meant bringing first class editorial quality to our newspaper pages in the best of times - often in the worst of times."

Over his four-decade career, Nettel learned to appreciate every story that came his way, big or small, he told a colleague who interviewed him near his retirement in 2001. It mattered to him that the people he was writing about always trusted him to get it right, and they did.

"He was the best of the best reporters that covered city government. He was very accurate in his reporting. He was never looking for an angle," former Manchester Mayor Robert Baines said.

"He was the epitome of what a good reporter should be. He did the Union Leader proud, he did the community proud, and I'm sad to hear that he's passed."

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