NEWPORT — After Pick of the Litter Thrift Store manager Charlie Nelson’s death last month, volunteers and employees at the shop are still carrying on and continuing operations without the longtime manager.
“Charlie’s death was completely sudden and unexpected,” said Emily DeHuff, board president of Friends of Lincoln County Animals, the organization which benefits from the fundraising operations of the store. “As far as anyone knew, nothing ailed him. He would’ve been 60 in July and no one suspected that anything was amiss.”
Nelson’s body was found at his home the morning of May 14 after a Pick of the Litter Thrift Store volunteer came to his house to check on him after he didn’t come to work that day. He was on the floor of his office, and it is suspected he passed away sometime the night before. The volunteers who opened the thrift store that day noticed Nelson wasn’t at work, and after unanswered calls to his cell phone, they knew something was wrong.
“She knows Charlie would never just not show up and not answer his phone,” said DeHuff of the volunteer who found him. “She called me and said, ‘Something is wrong. I’m going to call the police and have them do a wellness check at his house.”
The volunteer was the first one to get to Nelson’s house, and found the front door open and Nelson laying on the floor by his desk. DeHuff described hearing the news as a shock.
“Charlie had been our thrift store manager for eight years,” DeHuff said. “He was a dear friend.”
After Nelson’s untimely death, DeHuff said keeping the thrift store open and operating was made easier by Nelson’s organization and written directions on how to keep everything going. Everything from thrift store policies to closing the register to opening the bathroom to locking the gates was laid out in writing, DeHuff said, and made it possible to not close the store in the immediate aftermath of his death.
“Everyone said, ‘No, that will freak everyone out and Charlie wouldn’t want us to do that,” DeHuff said. “He would want us to carry on, so we have.”
Thrift store workers plan to hire a new thrift store manager, but with such large shoes to fill, those operating the thrift store want to wait for the right candidate who is familiar with volunteers and with retail. Despite wanting to fill the position with someone who can manage the way Nelson did, DeHuff doubts anyone will be able to completely fill the late manager’s shoes.
“We have to take our time and find the right person,” she said. “I doubt we will ever find everything he represented. He was very much loved, as well as very capable.”
A memorial service held June 24 for Nelson was well-attended, volunteers said, and the local man’s ashes, as well as the ashes of his recently-deceased dog, Reggie, are going down to Grants Pass, where Nelson had family.
“He’s missed, but we’ll go on and we will continue,” said Pat Cull, a volunteer cashier. “Anything for the animals.”