Editor's Note: I'm saddened to report that legendary lenslinger Gregg Pell has left this world. Across North Carolina news scenes, he was known for his work ethic, his wisdom and his blistering wit. To others in the scrum, he was a formidable opponent who just happened to be missing a forearm. Rest in Peace, Gregg. Thanks for the love you shared."Tell him the one armed man said hello." When I heard Gregg Pell say that to a cohort, I knew I could begin writing about him. Until then, I didn't quite know what to make of the silver-haired 'slinger, that calm, cheerful presence at crime scenes and campaign stops, a pipe-smoking wise-ass who just happens to be missing his right forearm. And what business is it of mine, anyway? None, I guess - but I'm dumbstruck by his pluck every time I watch him shoulder his camera and rush into the scrum. Come to think of it, I fell under the elder Pell's spell the very first time he bee-bopped past my live truck...
I was ankle deep in twisted cable, bent at the waist and dripping in sweat as a distant show producer prepared to begin counting backwards in my earpiece. I pulled and looped the coarse thick cable, but every other tug caused the nest of knots to constrict, until my face was red and my language were blue. I was seconds away from freeing myself from that loathsome pile, climbing the live truck's teetering mast and tell the camera mounted up there to go #&$@%! ... when I smelled the sweet aroma of pipe tobacco. As it wafted over me, I spotted Gregg Pell for the first time, stooped over and rolling cable off a wheeled cart. As he hustled past my truck, I spotted the pipe clenched in his teeth and realized he was humming.
It was only after he passed by that I realized Gregg had five less digits than I did. The one time I asked him how he juggled it all, he shrugged it off with a chuckle. "Oh, it's just a matter of adapting." Not that he's hung up on it, he's just got more interesting stuff to talk about! Like how he ushered in the golden age of video at WBTV, the time he did at my own WGHP and how smoke's coming out of that crumbling meth lab over there... With those kind of distractions, I find it hard to debrief this serendipitous soul, let alone pity him - as Sir Gregg Pell never let the fact that he only had one arm stop him from wiping the floor with the competition.
And he'd make you smile while he did it.