On this fine Memorial Day, I give a shout to my main man and grandpa, Ivan W. Nelson and his exploits in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. A fine man and an example to me. Served honorably in the Navy and then with his wife Gladys raised 6 wonderful children of whom my mom is one. Worked hard for his country and then just as faithfully for his wife and family. I miss him and love to think about what a great man he was. His service, his life, and his family all inspire me to be like him -- just a regular, unflashy, solid, hard-working guy who leaves his mark on the world in small yet profound ways. I'm proud to call myself a Nelson.
But, rather than me rambling away like usual, I elect to pass the designated Torch of Keepin It Real to my wonderful mother, Diane. This is the talk she gave at Grandpa Ivan's funeral. It tells more about his role as father and husband than his role in the military but after all, the people who fought to preserve our freedom and were able to return had to jump right back into taking care of everyday life and for Ivan, it was a young family that needed taking care of. I know he never put any other accomplishment in his life -- military or anything else -- above the family he raised with Gladys. Without any further ado, here is Diane's tribute to Ivan exactly as she read it at his funeral and I use it here with her permission. Enjoy my fine friends:
"Memories of Dad"
Talk given Friday, Sept. 25, 2009 at funeral services of I.W. Nelson
There isn’t a time that I remember my Dad that this old home movie doesn’t comes to mind. Picture this: The setting is late 1950‘s, the Nelson family in our old backyard on East Lawrence Road. A typical summer scene, an old fashioned blow up kiddie pool full of water & a sea of small kids, everyone of them in underwear floating, fussing & fighting over the garden hose. Suddenly the back door flies open. A big hairy barrel-chested blond man in swimming trunks jumps out -- that would be our Dad, THE GREAT WHITE HOPE! He flexes his muscles, he beats his chest & lets out a tarzan yell the whole neighborhood hears. He heads for the sea of kids in the pool. The sea of kids parts. The oversized man enters the miniature pool. In deep-knee bend position, in swan-like diving style he takes the plunge -- commonly known as a belly flop! All the water once inside the pool now washes over the sides. The tubes of air leak slowly out, but nobody cares! The walls of the pool collapse as each child streaks to stack himself one on top of the other. Their raucus cry rings thru the air, “DOG-PILE-ON DAD!” This is the way I like to remember my Dad, bigger than life, strong, robust and full of fun! I guess that’s why we always felt he’d live forever! But as I see it now, in humble gratitude to our Savior Jesus Christ, he will live forever.
Dad had a very unique approach to life sometimes “If a little bit is good a whole lot is better!” Let me illustrate with this incident at the cabin. I was doing my laundry one day which consisted of very dirty white gym socks. The dirt up there is black & I was scrubbing away when Dad happened to pass by: “Hmm,” he said. “Well, I can see you need a little assistance with your laundry, dear. If so, I’m your man!” So I very gratefully gave him a big basket of white socks and underwear & said, “Go to it dad, such a deal!” and walked downstairs in the basement to take a little break. I could hear the washer start & thought he’s got it under control -- Wow thanks Dad.
However, in a few minutes I had to use the basement bathroom, which is directly below the laundry room, so I opened the door. Coming out of the toilet bowl, the back of the toilet & bathroom sink & any pipes nearby, were mountains of sudsy clorox smelling bubbles. And I mean they were up to the ceiling! I backed out of their pretty fast as that bleach smell was pretty intense. I could even taste that bleach! Upon further investigation,I found Dad had used 3/4 of a new jug of clorox & half a box of Tide with Bleach. “Boy Dad” I said, “I think you might have gone a little overboard,” & told him what happened. Smiling he answered “ Well, they’re white aren’t they?” Yes, and soon to disintegrate!
Julie [my mom's sister] shares another memory: Julie loved her horse. One day Dad took her to ride Smokey. Dad put the saddle on top of the horse & tightened the cinch under its belly to it’s normal position--Well, if a little pressure works, a whole lot is better so he tightened it a bit more. He kept on tightening the cinch ‘til Smokey’s knees buckled, he fell down on the ground and laid on his side like he was dead. Julie thought Dad had killed her horse!
Speaking of horses, Bill had a horse named Buck. He’d bought it with his own paper route money. Dad tried to befriend the horse attempting to pet the animal, but the horse instinctively knew he could buffalo Dad. He laid his ears back & bared his teeth and started chasing Dad. The pasture was a grapefruit grove, so Dad picked up a grapefruit & threw it at the horse, & luckily the horse loved grapefruit and stopped to eat it. It only made Dad all the more mad and he continued lobbing grapefruits at the horse as it ate. This same horse was trained to stop when the rider dropped its reins. One day Dad was galloping the horse at break--neck speeds & happened to lose the reins. The horse instantly put on his brakes, stopped on a dime, & Dad flew up over the horses head. The moral to these memories is Dad Never Gave up!
Dad had a contagious laugh I don’t care what he was laughing about--to hear him laugh set us ALL on our way to hysteria at times. Even at times when propriety would suggest otherwise.
In Third Ward one Sunday, a woman sat down in front of us with her baby & husband. All of a sudden the child ripped the Mother’s Wig off. Dad became a tidal wave of silent laughter with tremors registering on the richter scale at 10+. He was a big guy & those tremors continued for 5 minutes at least. He could not be subdued & neither could we. He suppressed any loud noises, but that only made it worse. I just knew Dad would shake that pew right off its bolts.
One Friday nite, returning from a date, I heard the same kind of hysterics going on in the kitchen. Mom & Dad were both dying of laughter. I’d invited my date in for a soda & so we went to the kitchen to see what on earth was going on & there stood my folks, doubled over in a fit of laughter, trying to catch their breath, picking manure out of their pockets, hair, shoes etc. They had gone to the movies & getting out late in the dark, they stepped off a high curb & fell into a huge pile of manure!
DAd loved music & musicals. He had a most mellifluous voice & could whistle like know one you’ve ever heard! Our home was filled with music of all kinds & our Family Home Evenings with the folks even now always include music. I would play piano & Dad & I would sing together often. He loved to lead Mitch Miller Christmas songs at the Beneficial Life parties & was way more entertaining than Mitch was. Carolyn remembers Dad coming home, doing a little jig, to whatever music was on at the moment, the change in his pocket jingling to the beat. Dad was a dancing’ fool & would take all the babies cheek to cheek in what we call “the press” & all the grandkids loved dancing with him. Even the squirmiest -- if they resisted at all they would calm right down because he never let up. We were all enthralled watching Dad work his magic!!
My favorite memory comes next: When visiting Dad at the hospital last week he whispered to me “talk about the kids.” He had just had a breathing tube taken out of his throat, & couldn’t speak out loud yet. In fact, we never heard him speak audibly again, but I brought him up to date on all the kids . Then he turned over on his side as close as he could get to me & whispered these words: “Sing A song.” As I turned to close the door to make it more private, I thought of how he used to sing to me when I had new braces & wasn’t smiling much anymore. He would sing to me “I’m in heaven when I see you smile, smile for me, my Diane.” That would make me smile every time. And now he was whispering to me: “Sing A Song.” So holding his hand with my right hand & wiping tears with my left, I swallowed hard & sang: “I am a child of God,” “Families are Forever,” & “I want to be a friend of yours” -- I got to sing my Daddy to sleep & he smiled! The kids & grandkids will sing the same songs today in honor of Grandpa. And I just know Grandpa is in heaven & he’ll be smiling when they sing too!
Two great gifts I always had --
My sweetheart Mom & Devoted Dad
(I wish I had a picture on the computer of them together but this'll have to do.)