OSWEGO COUNTY, NY – Former Oswego County Sheriff Charles F. Nellis died Saturday morning at this home in Parish.
Nellis joined the New York State Police in 1956, retiring in 1977 as a Senior Investigator to become Oswego County Undersheriff. Nellis served as Oswego County Sheriff from 1984 through 1998, retiring after four terms in office.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHis first term was a three-year term,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Undersheriff Robert Lighthall explained. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe term length changed and he served four years for each of his last three terms.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Oswego County Sheriff Reuel Todd served as NellisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ Undersheriff for the entire 15 years.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œChuck was a great guy,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Todd said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe was a Marine, he was a cop and he was very much a family man. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ He was a cop even after he left this office. He just loved to serve his country, the state and the county.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Summing up his demeanor, Todd regarded Nellis as ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œhonest and fair.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen it was time for business, he was all business,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Todd said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhen it wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t, he was such a fun guy to be around. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ He was tough, too, and made it clear that if someone did something wrong, all they had to do was be honest about it. He didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“t accept a lie.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Todd said that Nellis had a great sense of humor.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe would get laughing all the time,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Todd recalled one instance when the department was cited for problems at the former jail. Standing in front of a somber commission, Todd was told that he couldnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t speak about the countyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s case because he didnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t speak at the right time.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI looked at Chuck and he looked at me and we just started laughing,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Todd said. He said the laughter spread throughout the room, to the dismay of the commission.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey were furious,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Todd said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe whole room was just laughing. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ They actually had to adjourn.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Todd said Nellis also had a soft heart for children and people who were in need.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe had a very compassionate side, especially for kids,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
Todd noted that NellisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œbabyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â during his county service was the new public safety center.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt was very instrumental in getting the new public safety center,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Todd said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIt was his baby. He worked very hard for it, he fought for it and he got it.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Lighthall said he worked with Nellis, both as a union leader and an officer.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI had the opportunity to work with him, both as an Undersheriff and as Sheriff,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Lighthall said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe promoted me twice, first to sergeant and then to lieutenant. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ He was an upstanding guy and very professional.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann said while he never had the opportunity to work with Nellis while he served as Sheriff, he knew him well as a constituent and fellow Republican.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe lived in Parish,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Leemann said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI knew him, I liked him, I honored him and I respected him. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â¦ He was a former Marine. We are like a band of brothers.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Leemann said Nellis was active in the Republican party when he decided to run for his Legislature seat.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe supported me when I decided to run,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Leemann said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe carried my petitions and worked really hard. He said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‹Å“If you are a Marine, you are alright with me.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Leemann noted that Nellis was in relatively good health until his wife, Virginia, was diagnosed with cancer.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHis health went downhill after that,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Leemann said.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t worried about taking care of himself,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â Lighthall said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œHe spent every minute with his wife.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
NellisÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ wife died Sept. 15. He is survived by his two sons, John and Peter. Peter Nellis retired from the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office this past September.