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Our Community Focus

Community Mourns

Sep 01, 2018 10:15AM ● By Elena Hutslar

Martin Nelis. Photo by Susan Wood Photography

                  The Gentleman Who Was the Center of Everything in Pleasant Hill

Words don’t adequately describe the loss we feel with Martin’s passing. In 2009, Becky, Jen, and I met with some of the staff at Pleasant Hill City Hall to get their feedback about our idea of starting a community paper. Most people we approached with this idea thought we were crazy and tried to discourage us.  But Martin sat straight up in his chair and said, “What a brilliant idea. This will be so good for our community. How can I help?”  He was anxious to share material with us, get the mayor to participate, and help in any way. We soon noticed that was how Martin was with everyone.  He was anxious to take part in anything he felt would help the community, bring the community closer, and enrich the city and its residents. At every event we attended, Martin was there, but he was rarely there to partake; he was there to work. He stepped in to help in any way he could, from picking up trash, taking photos, stocking toilet paper, setting up stages, and serving on multiple committees. This was not part of his job description. This was just who Martin was.  He quietly and loyally served his community.  He refused any limelight or attention for his efforts. When he was awarded the Community Plus Award, he reluctantly walked to the stage to receive it. His shoes will never be filled.

We feel truly honored and blessed to have known him. We will forever miss his emails, phone calls, laughter, smile, and charming Irish accent.

~ Community Focus Publishers, Elena Hutslar, Becky Coburn and Jennifer Neys

                           Community Bids Farewell to Cherished City Employee

It was with great sadness that the city received news of a tragic bicycling accident claiming the life of Martin Nelis, public information officer for the City of Pleasant Hill, on August 2, 2018. The impact Martin had on the community became evident as family, friends, colleagues, and members of the community, totaling over 400 people, gathered together in honor of his memory on Thursday, August 9, 2018, at the Pleasant Hill Community Center.  Martin’s family kindly shared the following about his life: 

Martin was the sixth child of a family of nine from Derry City, Ireland. An engineering graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, Martin immigrated to the United States in 1989. He took up several IT jobs and was also a congressional aide prior to his longtime positions as public information officer, first with the City of Suisun and then the City of Pleasant Hill in 2007. He was a loving father of three children and very active in the community. Martin was adored in the Pleasant Hill community. He was instrumental in growing the summer concert series that began around 2000 and in organizing farmers’ markets and other events. He played a huge role in the Measure K campaign, a ballot initiative in Pleasant Hill to help raise funds for a new public library.

Friends and family will remember him for his dry Irish humor and his sarcastic wit. Martin was preceded in death by his father, Billy, and his brother Peter. He leaves behind seven siblings: Donncha, Liam, John, Patrick, Cathy, Declan and Frank; his three children, whom he adored - Aidan, Fiona and Deirdre; mother Mary Elliott Nelis; former wife Niki Maguire-Rampe; and countless aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. ~ City of Pleasant Hill

                                                   Honored to Know Him

All of us in Pleasant Hill had the extreme honor and pleasure of knowing Martin as a friend and a dedicated public servant. We got to “share” him with his home of Derry, Ireland, and we thank his family and friends for allowing us this great privilege. You will never be forgotten Martin, and we will always treasure our memories of the wonderful times we spent with you. ~ Contra Costa County Supervisor Karen Mitchoff


My heart is broken by Martin’s tragic death. I lost a dear, dear friend, his children lost a beloved father, his colleagues lost an irreplaceable coworker, our community lost a dedicated public servant, and the world lost a precious gift. I'm overwhelmed with grief.

Martin had a hand in everything that made Pleasant Hill such a great place to live, work, and raise a family. He was the voice and face of our community and its heart and soul. Martin simply made our city a better place.  He was passionate and caring. He left an indelible mark on so many community events, including Community Service Day, the Pleasant Hill Education Initiative, the Summer Concert Series, children's tours of City Hall, and our new library.

In our grief, we must remember what a blessing it was to have this brilliant man grace our lives. Martin's memory will live on in all the wonderful things he did and how much he cared about all of us. He was a magnificent human being who left a legacy that will live on forever. We should all try to live our lives in a way that would make Martin proud. ~ Reflections by Michael G. Harris, OD Councilmember, City of Pleasant Hill