Nannette O'Neal was the friendly voice of Rubber & Plastics News for many years. In the early years of the publication, she was a behind-the-scenes person vital to the newspaper's success.
Nan—who died Oct. 20 at the age of 68—was from 1974 to 1983 the voice who said, “Good morning, Rubber & Plastics News!” to any sources, readers or ad buyers who called the office on the 12th floor of One Cascade Plaza in Akron, and later at other locations. She charmed everybody who came to the office with her characteristic combination of bubbly good humor and serious professionalism.
Nan was much more than the receptionist. She was the manager who kept the office running smoothly, the personal secretary to Ernie Zielasko, RPN's founder, editor and publisher, and the classified ad manager.
She handled the display advertising, arranged for the travel of all the editors and salespeople, and essentially was the go-to person for any office problem.
But to much of the RPN public, Nan was Sally Johnson. That was the generic name the paper gave to the classified ad manager, to separate that persona from her other jobs. Need to run a classified ad? Call Sally Johnson.
There probably were dozens of ad buyers who had no idea that Sally Johnson was really Nan O'Neal. There were also hundreds, even thousands, of readers who didn't know about all the extra hours Nan put in at the office to make sure all the details to keep the office running smoothly were done, and done to perfection.
After she moved on from RPN, Nan spent the late 1980s and early 1990s in association work in Washington, and then she returned to her home in Pennsylvania to care for her elderly parents. Much of her life was blighted by leukemia and its complications, until she lost the battle she had fought bravely for nearly four decades. She is survived by her father, her brother and her nephew.
I can attest to this: without Nan O'Neal's efforts, RPN would not be what it is today. She was the hardest worker you could ever hope for, and also the most loyal, selfless friend.
Moore is the Senior Washington Reporter for Rubber & Plastics News. He can be reached at [email protected]