LIMA — Chuck Dell, who led the sports department at The Lima News for 28 years in the 1960s through the 1990s, died Sunday. He was 84.
Dell started at the newspaper in 1961 before becoming sports editor in February 1964, a position he held through 1992. He also served as the interim editor at the newspaper from March 1992 through July 1992 and as the community relations and marketing director until he retired July 26, 1996, after 35 years with The Lima News. He spent the beginning of his retirement in a second career as a travel writer.
Services celebrating his life will be held at a later date. Arrangements are through Chiles-Laman Funeral Home, Lima.
Dell guided the sports department through key decades, as local sports became more and more important in society.
“He had an emphasis on high school sports and Ohio State football that is still strong there today,” said Paul Smith, a former Lima News sports editor who began working with Dell in 1969. “That’s what the region needed and should have.”
Dell made a difficult job look easy, said Mike Lackey, a longtime columnist and former city editor at the newspaper, who began his career in the sports department in 1972.
“The interesting thing I learned over time is that in a way, the sports editor is one of the toughest jobs at the newspaper,” Lackey said. “Every guy who buys a newspaper thinks he can do a better job than the guy who’s doing it. Every guy is a critic. I’m not sure I appreciated how good Chuck was at it until I became an editor myself.”
Dell personally covered Ohio State football games for the newspaper and wrote a popular Sunday column in the sports section. He offered rankings of the NFL teams, which sometimes frustrated fans of those teams, said Tom Usher, a former sportswriter who started in Lima in 1986 and retired in 2016.
“It really was a must-read for Lima,” Usher said. “You have to give Chuck credit for that. He went out on a limb on a couple things, and he ruffled a few feathers.”
Smith recalled Dell’s commitment to covering Ohio State games. Dell would return to Lima after an afternoon game, share some stories of what Woody Hayes said or did at the game with the staff and then sit down to write.
“He loved his stogies, of course, especially after an Ohio State game,” Smith said. “He’d pound away at the typewriter, smoking his cigar, back when smoking was allowed in a newsroom.”
Most of all, Dell loved the details of sports. He was “fanatical” about compiling area scoring statistics for high school football and basketball teams, Usher said.
“On Friday nights during football season, he would get all lathered up, so to speak,” Usher said. “He’d always have an undershirt on beneath his shirt. By the end of the night, he’d take off his main shirt, sitting in his undershirt, smoking a cigar. That’s about as old-school as you can get.”