Athletics News

Carver Memories -- Nov. 16, 1983

Jackie Nelson
May 18, 2017

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -

During the 1983-84 school year, Western Washington University student-athlete Jeff Kramer, a journalism major, agreed to write a couple of features about Viking athletes for the WWU sports information office. The piece he wrote on WWU volleyball standout Jackie Nelson was used verbatim and in its entirety in The Seattle Times on Nov. 16, 1983. Nelson, now Jackie Carel, went on to a long career as a high school volleyball coach (30 years and counting) and elementary school teacher (32 years and counting) in the Enumclaw (Wash.) School District. Kramer, who also played football at WWU for two years, went on to a career in journalism, mostly as a humor columnist. But he gained national attention while serving as a freelance writer for the Los Angeles Times' west-side office in Santa Monica as well as being the Boston Globe's Los Angeles correspondent. While working on a story in 1992 during the L.A. riots, he was shot three times and lived to write about that experience for People. Both stories follow:

Carver Memories -- Nov. 16, 1983

Makin' noise, Ex-Renton star turns up the volume at WWU

By Jeff Kramer

It begins with twitching fingers and a series of anticipatory bunny-hops.

Jackie Nelson's eyes are wide with tunnel vision as she struggles to keep her body in the same spot. Finally, the perfect moment arrives, and she bolts forward. Two lanky strides later, she has flung herself upward, a pig-tailed pogo stick intent in hitting the stuffing out of a volleyball.

Such plays are significant because when Nelson spikes or sets a volleyball for her Western Washington University women's team, it is one of the few times she keeps quiet.

Usually, the 5-foot-8 captain is a cornucopia of chatter as she prances, dances and yells her way through matches.

A virtual shoo-in for NAIA District 1 All-Star honors this fall, Nelson shuns silence as if it were a sore throat.

"There's nothing worse than when the gym's quiet," the ebullient junior setter says. "It gives everybody too much time to think."

Nelson's crusade against silence is in no way restricted to her on-court antics. During the week, she paints up banners advertising upcoming matches and implores anyone within earshot to come out and root for the team.

In a low-profile sport like women's volleyball, however, much of the noise-making chores have come to rest on Nelson's seasoned vocal cords as WWU vies for a district playoff berth this season.

"It's fun to be out there because it's a place where you can still talk all the time," she says. "Being a setter means you're the most vocal one out there. I guess I've always been the most vocal one."

Many also consider Nelson to be the most talented one out there.

"She's the best player we've got, that's for sure," says teammate Debbie Abramczyk. "She keeps you going. She makes you push yourself and she always gives you encouragement."

Nelson's encouraging words often defy dictionary definition, however. After the Vikings register a point, she sounds her approval with a rowdy, "Y-E-E-U-U-U!" or a gleeful "AH-E-E-E-A-H!" Occasionally, she opts for a satisfied, "Y-E-H-H-S-S-S" or an emphatic "S-W-E-E-T!"

Even when she lapses into a more conventional vocabulary, it is not without considerable flair. During a recent match, with Western trailing 14-10 in the first set, Nelson spontaneously blurted out nonstop -- Here we go. Here we go. Come on Western. Don't stop now. Don't stop. Don't stop. We can. We can. Come on Blue. It's our ballgame, Y-E-E-U-U-U!"

A few minutes later, Nelson blocked an opposition spike to give Western a 16-14 win.

Nelson came to WWU from Renton High School, where she played on two Class AAA state championship teams -- as a freshman in 1977 and as a senior in 1980. She won All-North Puget Sound League honors her senior season.

"I wanted to go away for school and still be close to home," she recalls of her decision to move north to WWU's Bellingham campus.

As a freshman hitter, Nelson -- and her mouth -- broke into the starting lineup of a mostly veteran team.

"My coach told me, `your skills are mediocre, but you talk,'" she says. These days, Nelson still talks, but no one is accusing her of mediocrity.

The current Viking coach, Mike Clark, formerly an all-star setter for Orange Coast Community College at Costa Mesa, Calif., criticizes Nelson only for being too hard on herself.

"She's kind of a perfectionist," he says, quickly adding. "She makes it easy for me to do things. Right now, she sets the same kind of game I would if I was the setter."

Nelson made the switch from hitter to setter in her sophomore year at WWU after playing both positions at Renton. Although the adjustment was rough, she's happy she made it.

"I love it," she says, "You're running the plays. It's a lot of pressure, but I've worked through the pressure and now it's just pure fun. I've learned to look at what the other side of the court is doing, instead of just our side."

All the while, she manages to work in her plethora of expressions, gestures and vocalizations.

"Our family is Italian," she explains. "I think it all comes from that."

An elementary education major, Nelson is looking forward to a career of "working with little ones."

And she gives every indication that she will be as lively in the classroom as she is on the court.

"I've never been a shy one," she confesses.

Delivered by Angels -- May 25, 1992

By Jeff Kramer

On April 29, just two hours after the Rodney King verdict, The Boston Globe asked Los Angeles free-lance journalist Jeff Kramer, 30, to report what looked like a routine assignment, a man-in-the-street reaction story in South Central L.A., the heart of the city's black community. However, for Kramer, a Seattle native, that afternoon was anything but routine. Here is his story.

Fortified by two large candy bars and the blind certainty that journalists are immune to tragedy because they cover it, I rushed to Martin Luther King Boulevard at about 4 P.M. The mood was tense but not violent. Only after interviewing a dozen people and filing from a pay phone did I hear about the trouble. I remember being slightly annoyed with myself for being so far away from the action. I also remember ignoring a feeling in my gut that said, "You've done enough for one day--go home."

As I gunned my car down Normandie Avenue, I was struck by the relative calm. I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Then at 53rd Street, traffic slowed--apparently for a light. A few people were in the streets, including a young black man about 20 yards ahead of my car. We made eye contact. I'd have trouble picking him out of a police lineup today, but I'll never forget the look on his face: shock giving way to unbridled joy.

The young man whistled to his friends, and seconds later I heard the sickening crunch of my windshield imploding. There was shouting. Another window broke. The car rocked. Someone yanked open the door and clawed at my seat belt.

"Get out of the car," a voice said.

"I'm a reporter," I replied, realizing at once how absurd that sounded. "I don't care what you are," the attacker insisted. "Get the f-- out of the car!"

I was paralyzed with fear. If I complied, my assailants would almost certainly do to me what they were doing to my Plymouth Colt. On the other hand, staying put wasn't particularly appealing either. For the first time I realized I might die. I felt bewildered and sad. I'd turned 30 the week before. It seemed such a pointless and surreal way for my life to end--at the hands of people I essentially agreed with, at least in terms of the King verdict.

I shook my head: "No." I wasn't getting out of the car. That touched off a frenzy of violence. Someone reached inside, groping for the seat belt, while somebody else started punching me in the face and head. One blow slammed me into the steering wheel. In that position, my ample belly effectively blocked the seat-belt buckle. Instinctively I played dead. I was smacked around a few more times before I heard several loud bangs and felt a stinging in my legs. Something warm ran down my left calf. It look me a moment to register that I'd been shot.

I continued playing possum for a minute, maybe two, with my head and chest slumped forward and my left leg dangling out of the car. I couldn't see what was going on, but the mob seemed to have scattered. Gradually, I noticed a vibration; the engine was still running. I wriggled my left foot to see if I could use the clutch. I could. I waited another moment, look a deep breath, slammed the door shut and rammed the car into gear. I made a U-turn and a quick right down a side street. There were shouts and more shots from behind me, then the impact of a bullet slamming into my back. I did a quick damage assessment: I could still breathe and drive. But I remember a bizarre thought flashing through my mind: "I'm going to get a great story out of this if I can just live."

After a block or two the car started slowing down. The tires felt like they had been shot out. I turned down another side street where I saw four children--none of them older than 10--playing on the lawn. If children were safe here, maybe I would be too.

"Can you please get your parents," I shouted. "I've been shot."

The kids didn't move. They just stood there, frozen in place. Fortunately, one of the neighbors, Cynthia Brown, 24, heard my pleas. She ran into her house and, I learned later, told her mother, Marie Edwards, that "a white man had been shot." While Edwards tried to reach 911, her son Keenan Guidroz, a cemetery grounds keeper, rushed out to my car. Then Edwards showed up with a blanket and some long Johns to use as compresses. She hadn't been able to get through on 911, but that hadn't slopped her. As a custodian in the L.A. County health building, she'd managed to reach a paramedic who told her what to do until an ambulance arrived.

It never did. Guidroz held a compress on my shoulder for 40 minutes, an act that went well beyond basic first aid or good samaritanism. I was a white man in a black neighborhood during a riot. I was placing Guidroz and his entire family at considerable risk--and we all knew it. At least a dozen cars, some moving with menacing slowness, cruised by. One actually stopped, backed up and looked us over before driving off. But Edwards had been clever. She had had her son lower my seat back to get me out of sight. Whenever a car came by, she covered my head with the blanket. If anything, it looked as if Edwards and Guidroz were looting my car.

As it became obvious that paramedics weren't being allowed into the area, I struggled to control my fear. Finally, a neighbor, Lemicher Wallace, rushed out in her dressing gown and decided I had waited long enough. She brought out a big sedan and drove it onto the sidewalk next to my Colt. Guidroz helped me out of my car and into hers. They laid me in the backseat and covered me with a blanket. As we drove, Wallace and Guidroz described, with disbelief, the riot that was going on around us. Then they spotted several police officers who waved down a paramedic van, and I was taken to the California Medical Center.

I hobbled out of the hospital two days later. My left leg--with six bullet holes--miraculously escaped damage to bones, joints and arteries. The doctors say my shoulder will heal, but the .38 slug that shattered it will stay right where it is, a millimeter from my chest wall. Removing it, they said, would cause more trouble than it's worth. So far my injuries seem to be only physical. I have had a couple of mini nightmares. I relive the attack, but this time I fight back. Just your basic Schwarzenegger stuff.

Last week I was reunited with my rescuers and was able to thank them in person for the first time. It was slightly awkward. I kept stumbling for the right words to tell these near strangers how much they meant--and how much they would always mean--to me. Edwards was far more articulate. "We didn't care what race you were," she told me. "You were in trouble, and we rushed out to help."

Edwards told me later that if I had driven down the next block instead of hers, I might not be alive. That block is filled with gang members. "There are a lot of bad kids on that street," she said.

But if this experience has shown me anything, there's a lot of good in South Central too. As much as getting shot may have rocked my faith in humanity, my rescuers restored it--and then some. As we stared at my battered and bloody car, Edwards's mother, Rena Guidroz, shook her head and said, "Angels sent him here." I can't argue with that.

Biographical Sketches:

Jackie (Nelson) Carel

Jackie is in her 30th year as girls volleyball coach at Enumclaw High School and 32nd year as a teacher at Westwood Elementary School in the Enumclaw School District. She also has coached tennis at EHS. Jackie received a bachelor's degree in education from WWU in 1985. There she was a four-year letter winner, earning NAIA District 1 all-star honorable mention. Jackie followed her older sister, Kim, to Western. A 1981 graduate of Renton High School, she played on state championship teams as a freshman and senior. In tennis, Jackie placed fourth and seventh at state in doubles, respectively, as a junior and senior. She and husband Rick, a teacher and coach at Enumclaw High, have two children, son Riley who played basketball at Seattle Pacific and Saint Martin's, and daughter Rochelle.

The Carels: (L-R) Rick, Rochelle, daughter in law Noelle, Riley and Jackie
The Carels: (L-R) Rick, Rochelle, daughter in law Noelle, Riley and Jackie

Jeff Kramer

In his fourth year writing a humor column for the Syracuse News Times. Also wrote a freelance column for the Post-Standard in Syracuse for seven years. Worked at the Orange Coast Register (Calif.) from 1994 to 2003, first as a military reporter and then as a humor columnist. Previously served as a freelance writer for the Los Angeles Times' west-side office in Santa Monica, and was theBoston Globe's Los Angeles correspondent. The L.A. riots (1992) occurred during that time and Jeff was shot three times and wrote about the experience for People Magazine. He began his career first as a reporter and then as a humor columnist for Middlesex News in Boston. In addition to columns and articles, he has written three stage plays, "Reaching for Marsby", "Lowdown Lies," and "The Golden Bitch," set partly at a dog rescue. He also has produced a local sketch comedy show called "Sketchy Mall People." A 1985 graduate from Western with a bachelor's degree in journalism, Jeff wrote for the school newspaper and started and lettered two years for the Vikings as an offensive tackle in football. He earned second-team Evergreen Conference all-star honors as a sophomore in 1981. Jeff graduated from Nathan Hale High School in Seattle where he earned All-Metro League recognition in football. He and wife Leigh Neumann have two teenage daughters, Miranda and Lily.

The Kramers: (L-R) Miranda, Leigh Jeff and Lily
The Kramers: (L-R) Miranda, Leigh Jeff and Lily

Paul Madison served 48 years as sports information director at WWU from 1966 to 2015

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