Elwood Albert Nelson passed away peacefully, with his family by his side, at Good Samaritan Medical Center, in Lafayette, CO. He was 100 years old.
Elwood was the youngest of four, and the only son, born to Mabel (Hanse) and Anton Nelson, at his Aunt Thilda’s home in Kensal, ND. He was born on October 15, 1923. He was baptized in the Lutheran Church in Kensal, on March 9, 1924. Elwood was raised in Kensal and graduated from Kensal High School in 1941. A gift of an Austrian cornet gave him a start in the school band. The high school had only three teachers, so Dad said there was little time for music instruction. However, Father Zimmerman helped instruct him. He began playing with a local dance band his sophomore year, he had his first gig his junior year, with a man and his wife, who played banjo, guitar, drums, and piano, and earned three dollars. He also played with Father Zimmerman’s ensemble, sometimes during the school day. He started at North Dakota State School of Science, in the fall of 1941, where he played in the college band. He enlisted in the Army December 1, 1942 and was discharged on December 8, 1945. He did U.S. Army pre-radar classes at UND, telephone school, basic training in Missouri, Camp Crowder, Army specialist training in Laramie, WY, and applied to be an Air Force pilot, but was sent overseas first, and was eventually assigned to the 50th Signal Battalion in England. He was on the first boat to land after the invasion on Normandy on D2. There were several musicians in the Army, and he acquired a trumpet, an Army Conn, someone else had been playing it and due to their new job, could not play it anymore. He played from Normandy, France, to Leipzig, Germany. Others in the group played string bass, guitar, alto and tenor sax, clarinet, violin, flute and piano. They put on programs for fellow soldiers. When the war ended, they gained more musicians and got arrangements from Special Service for songs like “Swanee River,” “Song of India” and “Backbay Shuffle”. They played for doctors and nurses at a nearby Army hospital.
The Battalion had a club at a café in Karlsruhe and they played there often. When they played there at night, the street was filled with local residents listening to their music, and that was a thrill. When Elwood returned, after a short stop in Kensal, he went to Vallejo, CA to be with family and was a clerical worker at a Naval hospital. When the shipping jobs ended, they all returned to Kensal. Elwood enrolled at Jamestown College for the second semester. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Jamestown College in June 1950. He chose Jamestown, because of the GI Bill, and he could play dance jobs. In college, he was part of a college group that played out of Jamestown, ND. He wasn’t originally going to be a teacher and was working in bookkeeping. He was asked to finish a school year for a teacher friend named Sonic, who was drafted. He went back to school to get teaching certification after teaching at Rogers, ND and they encouraged him, and wanted him to come back and teach more, especially Principal Ed O’Hare. He taught music and commerce (typing and bookkeeping), math, history and when they found out Elwood played trumpet, they asked him to direct a school band. He spent several summers taking music courses from Valley City and Moorhead State Colleges.
While teaching in Tower City, ND, Elwood met and fell in love with Beverly Bowman.
They married in 1956 and were married for 61 years. They were blessed with eight children, six daughters and two sons, who they raised in west central, Minnesota. Elwood also taught in Campbell, Wheaton, Barrett, and Verdi, MN. Throughout his teaching career, he played dance jobs now and then, and when his oldest daughter, Janelle reached high school, he returned to playing gigs two to three times a week, spending many Sunday afternoons at the Ottertail Supper Club. He played with The Blue Knights, The Marv Johnson Band, and with Dan Remer’s Band on occasion, recording an album with this group. After moving to Colorado, he played with Boulder Friends of Jazz, sat in with the Buzz Lyon’s Trio at Pearl’s and on the Pearl Street Mall, and played jam sessions with friends in The Broomfield Jammers, at community events and senior living facilities. Elwood also played music with friends, such as Orlo Thompson, Gordon Leraas, and Don Bitzan, on summer return trips to Minnesota and played for many church events and sing-alongs.
Elwood truly enjoyed making music. He taught his family songs to sing in harmony on long car rides and at home. He assisted them in learning to play instruments of their own. His clear trumpet tone was recognizable anywhere, as was his singing voice. He sang The Lord’s Prayer many times for family weddings. He loved being up at the cabin and the peaceful atmosphere there. He was always working up there and expressed that it didn’t feel like work when you were near the lake and in the woods. Elwood was a good friend to many, and so kind. He took an interest in others and enjoyed conversations and time with family and friends. Spending time with his family was a source of joy and happiness for Elwood. He shared readily and was willing to help others whenever he could. Everyone was always welcome at the Nelson’s home.
Elwood will be remembered for his faith, love of music and for the gift of being able to share that with others. He always gave his all to everything and had many great experiences.
Elwood is preceded in death by his wife, Beverly Nelson, his parents, Anton and Mabel Nelson, sisters Mabel Mead, Margaret Ableidinger, and Lois Florhaug, brother-in laws, Merlin Johnson, LeRoy Mead, Earl Ableiginger, Peder Florhaug, Shannon Duane Bowman, Ralph Welken, and Clifford Roxton, sister-in-laws, Vivian Bowman, and Enid Roxton, and nephew, Shannon Bowman.
Left to cherish his memory are his children: Janelle (Ron) Davis, Jill (Jerry) Olson, Jacqueline (Geoff Elliott) Nelson, Meredith (Gary) Nelson-Daniel, Michael Nelson, Michelle (Darrin Johnson) Nelson, Milissa (Chris Stark) Nelson, and Mark (Tiffany) Nelson; grandchildren:
Matthew (Anne) Davis, Tim Davis, Molly (Mark) Himmelberg, Raelee Olson, Randa (David) Stone, Chase Elliott, Christopher (Deborah Arthur) Daniel, Matthew (Katherine) Daniel, Erin (Sam) Olson, Kincaid Daniel, Hannah (Cody Kuntz) Johnson, Samuel, and Sonja Johnson, Megan and Cora Stark, Keithen McLean, Ashayla and Xavien Powers, Mararose and Zander Nelson; great-grandchildren: Hunter, William, and Finnegan Davis, Nora, Davis, and Charlotte Himmelberg, James and Helen Harrell, Janie Jean and Emma Stone, Meaza Abraham, Michael Daniel, Ragan Daniel, and Addison Kuntz. Elwood is also survived by his sister-in-law, Barbara Welken, and numerous nieces, nephews, extended family and friends.