Cover photo for Paul Nelson's Obituary
Paul Nelson Profile Photo
1933 Paul 2017

Paul Nelson

February 8, 1933 — October 23, 2017

Paul Alexander Nelson, age 84, a resident of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, died Monday, October 23rd, 2017, at Ecumen Nursing Home in Detroit Lakes, MN.

Paul Alexander Nelson was born in the winter of 1933 to Erna Nelson (Krebs) and Francis Nelson at home in their little cabin within the area of what later became Maplewood State Park, near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota.  The static temperature of -28 Fahrenheit that day was typical for that time of year and stories have been passed down about the wood stove glowing red as the family tried to keep warm in their drafty home.

Growing up in the woods during the depression era, Paul experienced the common travails of too little of too much; his mother often spoke of making woodchuck stew, and how awful it was!  However, the self-sufficiency gained from those early years of deprivation provided useful perspective in later life.

Paul and the family moved to a farm just outside of Pelican Rapids in the early 40’s, and began a life of grain farming and tending their growing dairy herd.  Electricity had not yet been run to rural areas so they milked by hand using lanterns for light, and used horses to pull and power their small farm equipment.  Later, they bought a gas-powered tractor and also their first hay-baler, whereupon all Paul had to do was sit on the machine and tie each bale as it came out.  He spoke of making 15 to 20 thousand bales of hay each year in that manner.

In 1953 Paul joined the recently formed U.S. Air Force, and was stationed in Denver, Colorado for training as an Intelligence Operations Specialist.  It was while there he met his future wife, Valeria.  Married in 1955, they lived first in Alaska, where they welcomed son David, and then Mississippi where while Paul was training to repair Radar Systems, they welcomed son Steven.   He was accepted to and completed Officer Candidate School in Texas, and was commissioned in 1960.  Following an assignment in Germany, the family moved to Norway where Paul was assigned to the U.S. Embassy, and where they welcomed son Lloyd.  Subsequent military assignments included Virginia, Mississippi for a second tour, Viet Nam, where Paul was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service at Bien Hoa Air Base, Alaska for a second tour and then a final assignment to Grand Forks, ND.

Throughout his military career, Paul took advantage of opportunities to travel, camp, hunt, and fish…and just generally get away from the city.  While in Norway, he took the family to Sweden to locate and visit cousins from the Nelson side of the family.  In Virginia, he discovered a campground on a nearby dairy farm where the boys could run barefoot through the pasture while he indulged his fondness for operating tractors for the owner.  While in Alaska he took the family on numerous camping trips and a fly-in fishing trip for salmon.  He also hunted, often with a son or two in tow, a variety of game ranging from small game-birds like Ptarmigan all the way up to large game like Moose.  He even found time to build a cedar strip canoe from scratch that the family enjoyed on multiple river floats.

Following his military service, Paul purchased the family farm and with his family returned to the life of farming and dairy (with occasional Walleye fishing!) that he so loved.  Starting with just a few cows that were milked by hand, with the milk being hauled to the Pelican Creamery in ten-gallon cans, he slowly built up an award-winning herd of Jerseys.  As his sons grew up and left home, he replaced their labor with mechanization and eventually had a pipeline to bulk tank operation as well as an automatic barn cleaner.  He was active with the Dairy Herd Improvement program and his land stewardship practices were acknowledged through Soil Conservation Farm awards.

In later years, he transitioned from dairy cows to meat/fleece sheep and was one of the nation’s earliest breeders of Texel sheep where he was also active in the breed improvement program. His strong commitment to community was demonstrated by 10 years served as a supervisor on the Pelican Township Board.  He was also quite active with several local churches, and over the years served as Board Member, Finance Committee Member, and general handyman for numerous self-help projects.

Paul enjoyed the wonder of nature and caring for his cattle and sheep, but no place better demonstrated his love for animals than his relationship with his dogs.  The dogs got progressively smaller as he grew older; from Nellie (a Sheltie) to Corky (Corgi Terrier) to Anna (YorkiePoo), who was his last and most adored. During winter, Paul could be found inside a store with Anna’s little black face peering out from the collar of his parka where he had tucked her in to stay warm.

Paul is survived by 3 sons: David (Pam) Nelson, Marshall, Virginia, Steve (Vera) Nelson, Pelican Rapids, Lloyd (Donna) Nelson, Pelican Rapids; 10 grandchildren; Erik Nelson, Justin (Amanda) Nelson, Samantha Nelson, Casandra Nelson, Zachary Nelson, Francis Nelson, Sarah (Dave) Beres, Erin (Keith) Plemons, Kraig (Jamie) Nelson and Shelby Nelson; Great Grandson Matthew Nelson; sister Sylvia (Larry) Gripentrog, Fergus Falls, MN, sister-in-law Barbara (Bill) Nichols, Carthage, Missouri; brothers-in-law; Wendell Flesher, Webb City, Missouri and George (Blanche) Flesher, Carthage, Missouri; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by Valeria, his wife of 61 years, and his parents.

Visitation will be Friday, October 27, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., with a 6:30 Prayer Service at Grace Lutheran Church, Erhard, Minnesota and continuing one hour prior to the service at the church.

Memorial Service will be at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, October 28, 2017, at Grace Lutheran Church, Erhard, Minnesota.

Clergy: Pastor Brad Soenksen

Interment: Central Lutheran Cemetery, Pelican Rapids, MN

Funeral Home: Glende Nilson Funeral Home, Fergus Falls, Minnesota

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