The Grandfather of Big Ideas

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“Jack, give me a call back on my cell to let me know we’re all set.” 

That voice mail on my cell is commonplace a couple of days before just about every holiday at Mariner’s. There’s no need for him to leave his name because the raspy, gruff, yet warm and congenial voice is instantly recognizable.  As always, I call back and confirm the reservation.  It never is a problem because his family always comes early before the rush.Someday, I’ll miss hearing that call.  And someday, Madison will miss him as well.

At the November 15th groundbreaking for the Edgewater Hotel project, there was an electric buzz of excitement, optimism, and progress that you could tangibly feel.  It was an incredible get together of people that care so much about this city and were so excited to witness Bob Dunn’s vision for the Edgewater become a reality.  It was a beautiful, sunny fall day that fit the occasion perfectly.  Prior to the groundbreaking outside, there was a program inside.  Bob Dunn, president of The Hammes Company, was running the show.  Bob articulated his vision perfectly with opening remarks, closing remarks, and while introducing several speakers.  The list of speakers was outstanding and the quality of their perspectives memorable.

However, one introduction and one speaker stood out from the rest to me.  Bob introduced the second of six speakers as “The Grandfather of Big Ideas”.  When George Nelson took the stage and started speaking, you could hear a pin drop as people hung on every word.


George is the EVP of Evening Telegram Co. which is the parent company of Channel 3, Channel 3000, and Madison Magazine.  George was instrumental in many things becoming a reality in Madison in spite of great odds stacked against them.  He is probably best known for his work in making Monona Terrace happen.  When he met with Bob regarding the Edgewater he told him to dream even bigger than he already was.  And now Madison will be the beneficiary of those big dreams with the new Edgewater opening in 2014.


George was also a dear friend of my mother Betty.  Betty loved Madison as much as George, and Betty never was afraid to dream big.  A few years before her death, Betty told me how exciting it was going to living in the Madison area over the next 20 years.  When George emotionally spoke at the Edgewater with that same raspy voice I hear on my voice mail every holiday, I couldn’t help but think of my mom, of Madison, and the equity George brought to the words he was delivering that day.  He truly is a Madison treasure.  Thanks George.

Posted March 6, 2013 | Promotions | | Written by mariners