Carole Custer

Paul Nally still flying high

Editor’s note: Carole Custer, president of the Bell Tower Community Foundation, delivered the following remarks Friday dedicating the observation deck of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower the Paul Nally Observation Deck.

And today, we honor another person who — without his faith that the foundation could re-energize the tower and make it even more respectable as a landmark for our county and to attract tourists from across the country and the world — today’s dedication of the new 47-bell, four-octave carillon would not have been possible.

Paul Nally, who grew up in Cedar Twp., graduated as part of the 1936 class. He graduated from University of Nebraska. (But I’ve not held that against him!) He was a bomber pilot with the Eighth Air Force in England and twice received the Purple Heart medal. He spent most of his career with the Department of Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis and retired after 65 continuous years of being a pilot.

He returned to Jefferson in 1984 and continued his love of flying his plane. Bob Owens, a close friend of his here today and also had a love of flying, flew with Paul on his last flight.

Paul died in 2007 at the age of 90. He bequeathed the Bell Tower Community Foundation $175,000 to enhance the tower. It was his financial support that jump-started the foundation’s serious quest to enhance the tower — outside seating and planters here in the plaza that we enjoy today, and was the major funding that helped us commit to completing the carillon.  

In his honor, and with the support of the county board of supervisors, from today forward, the tower level that draws more than 5,000 people annually to view five counties and myriad other attractions and businesses, will be called the Paul Nally Observation Deck.

This plaque, honoring Paul, will hang in the observation deck. It reads:

Paul E. Nally Observation Deck

Dedicated June 9, 2017

To honor philanthropist Paul Nally of Jefferson, Iowa, for his bequest to the Bell Tower Community Foundation for the enhancement of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower.

His donation laid the foundation for the “Let the Bells Ring” fundraising campaign to expand the original 14-bell chime to a 4-octave, 47-bell carillon during the tower’s 50th anniversary in 2016.

Nally, born in 1916 in Cedar Township in Greene County, spent most of his working years in St. Louis, Missouri, with the Department of Defense Mapping Agency and retired to Jefferson in 1984. 

He died at the age of 90 in 2007.

Today, Paul’s second cousins, once removed, still living in Greene County, are here today to represent him. Will they stand — Andy Geisler, Deb Geisler, Don Kersey, Sandra Kersey, and John and Marian Geisler, along with his flying buddy, Bob Owens.  

I recently learned of a friendship and mentor connection between Paul and past Bell Tower of Fame winner Clarence Juhl, a NATO diplomat, who told me, “Paul was a real hero among the many, many heroes of his generation — a quiet, unassuming, caring patriot and human being of the highest caliber.

“It is more than appropriate that his name should forever be honored from a height far above the lush countryside over which he so often flew and which he loved so deeply.”

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Jefferson Bee & Herald
Address: 200 N. Wilson St.
Jefferson, IA 50129

Phone:(515) 386-4161