Remembering Paul N. Abelson – Sept. 11, 1938-Oct. 7, 2021
October 12, 2021
•Land Line Staff
As Land Line’s senior technical writer for more than two decades, Paul N. Abelson answered readers’ questions in his column Maintenance Q and A, in addition to contributing a wide variety of equipment and technical articles. Paul passed away Oct. 7 at his home in Littleton, Colo., shortly after turning in his final article for the December/January issue of Land Line.
Born Sept. 11, 1938, in Queens. Paul was a native New Yorker with a profound love of country.
He graduated Scarsdale High School in 1955 and earned his bachelor of science degree from New York University in 1964 and his master’s degree in marketing/communications from Michigan State in 1968. After serving in the U.S. Air Force, Paul, his wife Patricia “Pat” Jessiman Abelson and their two children settled in western New York. In 1978, they moved to Illinois.
A devoted car guy, Paul was active in Sports Car Club of America, competing as a driver and later coordinating road rallies. He became involved in the trucking industry in 1981. As North American president of Eberspecher, Paul enjoyed early success in the industry on the supplier side for several years and continued by forming his own marketing communications and consulting company. It was through this venture that he began penning copy for various trucking industry publications, eventually writing under his own byline. He launched Abelson Enterprises in April 1984, with an office at his home in Lisle, Ill.
His writing first appeared in Trucks Magazine in 1986, and he became an editorial staple in the trucking communications industry. In addition to his work as senior technical writer for OOIDA’s Land Line Magazine, in the early days he was also senior technical editor for Road King Magazine, published by TravelCenters of America.
“It is rare to share your tech editor and avoid publishing the same copy, but Paul was prolific to the extent we made it work,” said Sandi Soendker, Land Line’s former editor. “Every publication has that writer who writes 1,500 words when you need 700. For Land Line, that person was Paul Abelson. Paul was like that in his life, too. He was always happy to do more, to share more.”
The editor of Road King at that time was Bill Hudgins.
“It was great to attend a truck show with Paul,” says Hudgins. “Paul was always a teacher. We judged the Walcott show together a couple of years. I had no idea at first how to judge. He very patiently mentored me on what to look for and how to evaluate what I was seeing.”
After Road King changed publishers, Paul encouraged him to ditch his editor persona and let his inner satirist fly. Paul was convinced that Bill’s sense of humor would fit in with Land Line’s trucker readership. Hudgins became a columnist for Land Line and has been a major contributor for years.
Paul wrote articles for more than 20 years for various industry publications. He also maintained a busy schedule contributing to the industry through his participation in the Technology & Maintenance Council, Society of Automotive Engineers, National Idling Reduction Planning Committee, Trucker Buddy, and Truck Writers of North America.
Two of Paul’s close trucking friends were Suzanne and Bob Stempinski, an owner-operator team from the Chicago area.
“We became friends after a chance encounter with Paul and Hudge in a Las Vegas parking lot,” Suzanne said. “Paul’s breadth of knowledge on an endless variety of subjects both technical and arcane was the stuff of legends. Some people collect baseball cards. Paul collected people. He was a friend and mentor of extraordinary proportions.”
That mentorship helped eventually launch Suzanne as a longtime field editor for Land Line.
Paul accomplished all this while continuing his successful marketing communications and consulting business. His talent and knowledge have been recognized by a variety of awards from the American Society of Business Press Editors, the International Automotive Media Association, Communication Concepts and Truck Writers of North America. In 1995, he received the Silver Spark Plug distinction from the Technology & Maintenance Council. In 2006, TWNA presented its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to Paul at the group’s annual awards banquet at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.
Being selected as the 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award winner was in no small part because of the enormous respect he has earned among his peers. But, perhaps more than all else, Paul was known for his genuine desire to embrace journalists new to the truck writing vocation and his willingness to share his experience and technical savvy.
As a member of the engineering community, he exuberantly connected his peers with trucking professionals. OOIDA member, owner-operator and Land Line columnist Dave Sweetman tells how Paul gave him – and another owner-operator, Bob Guy – the opportunity to talk face to face with members of the Society of Automotive Engineers, where Sweetman stressed the importance of building a truck cab that would both protect the driver in a crash situation but also have an escape option.
“Paul made that happen,” Sweetman recalls. “It was like they built a great cab except for one thing – how do you get out of it if crashes or rolls over? It was a great exchange and I like to think it had meaningful impact.”
As he battled health issues, Paul and Pat moved in June 2021 from Lisle, Ill., to Colorado, to be near family.
He is survived by Pat, his wife of more than 54 years, Littleton, Colo.; son David of Council Bluffs, Iowa; and daughter Heather Wachter, son-in-law Brad and two cherished grandsons, Johnathan Courage and William Liberty Wachter of Highlands Ranch, Colo. He was a member of Congregation Beth Shalom for 43 years. LL
Read Paul Abelson’s most recent October 2021 Maintenance Q and A column here.