When Marion C. Nelson passed away this week at age 93, he had been retired for some 15 years, and his name may not have immediately registered with younger people. But for more mature Salt Lake area residents, Nelson was a well-known and respected figure who touched many different aspects of community life.
As the former president and chairman of Gillham Advertising Inc., a highly successful advertising and public relations firm, he won a variety of local, regional and national honors for his 54 years of innovative work and leadership in the field.A native of Manti, he grew up in Salt Lake City and attended the University of Utah where he edited school publications and worked for Salt Lake newspapers. From 1917-21 he was sports and automobile editor for the Deseret News before joining Gillham Advertising, where his skills took him to top management in just a few years. In 1930 he purchased the company.
In a half century as one of the state's top advertising executives, Nelson could spot talent. He got many young people started in the business who later went on to become major successes in their own right.
But Nelson's business success was only part of his contribution. A dedicated civic leader, he served at one time or another as president of major civic clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, vice president of the Utah Symphony board and chairman of publicity campaigns for the Red Cross, salvage and war bond drives during World War II. He also chaired the public information committee in the 1958 campaign to raise $10 million toward construction of the University of Utah Medical Center.
While all of these achievements helped make the Salt Lake area a better place to live, Nelson left an even more enduring monument - a talented and productive family. His 64-year marriage to Edna Anderson - she died in 1983 - produced four children. They are Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Council of the Twelve, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mrs. Robert F. (Marjory) Rohlfing, Mrs. William (Enid) DeBirk and Robert H. Nelson.
In more than nine decades, the senior Nelson made a significant and lasting impact, leaving his mark in the business world, in his community and, most important, in the lives of many individuals.