Walt was born in Chicago, Illinois to Carl and Ebba Nelson on June 5, 1928. His parents came here from Sweden in the early 1900’s. He had an older brother Albin.
When he was about three years of age during the depression, they moved to Paxon, Illinois, where his father started farming. It was that change that shaped Walt’s life to be passionate about the farm and hard work alongside his father. He was his father’s side-kick. Walt only knew the Swedish language as that was all that was spoken in their home until he started school. There he learned the English language. In his young years at grade school, he became a worker. The school was only 1 mile from the home, so in the cold season, Walt would go to the school house to fire up the stove for the class that day, then return home until time to go to the start of the school day. He earned a few coins for doing that for the school. He was proud of those coins and he learned to save money.
Walt was always learning about the details of the land, the crops and very passionate about the horses. In his young years he drove his horse, Maggie, with the mower to keep the cemetery looking great. She was his pride and joy.
As the school years progressed, sports were not in the picture for him. He was good at sports and the coaches wanted him to play, but the priority was the fields that needed plowed, or crops planted or tended to, animals needed taken care of.
Bonnie Jean Carlson and Walt met in third grade at school. As the years passed and they were teens, they dated and found their Swedish connection brought them even closer. He loved that she was a hard worker as well and also lived on the farm, knowing how to milk the cows, tend the sheep and could cook.
They married on Dec. 24, 1949, at Paxton, Illinois at 10 p.m. at the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Mission Church. That late hour was due to the fact that Bonnie was a telephone operator and on duty that night so families could call and reach their loved ones overseas during the war.
Walt and Bonnie continued to farm, raising Herford cattle, sheep, horses and chickens. Walt always had at least one more side job to help out the money. He was a Rural Mail Carrier part time, worked on the Township Road Service, and often drove loads of cattle to the Chicago markets.
All the work never let them stop to take time to have fun and travel. Camping was a big part of their life and was usually with other friends as well, and the extended family.
After many years of farming in Illinois, they moved to Indiana in 1967 and farmed there as well. In the late 70’s, Walt rented out the farm ground and decided to start a new adventure. They chose Arizona as the base and lived there about 9-10 months a year, taking his new horse Rosebud with them. That choice filled their hearts through the rest of their lives. They managed a large mobile home park for 55+ people (Superstition Shadows) and met people from all over the USA and Canada. It allowed them to travel even more to visit them in the summer months when the snowbirds went home to their main place. Walt would ride Rosebud in the mountains by himself at times, said it was the best place to clear your head. Rosebud always knew the way home.
They have two children, Karla (Darrell) Jackson of Crawfordsville and Donald Nelson of Arizona. They are the proud grandparents of Mike (Heather) Jackson of Danville, Indiana, and their children, Alida, Hallie, Lilly and Lucy; Julie (Chad) Hess of Crawfordsville and their children, Avery, Cale and Hayden; Kerri (Kyle) Mehmen of Plainfield, Iowa, and their children, Alison, Jackson and Anna; and Don Henry (Tiffini) Nelson of Arizona and their children, Elliot and Dominic.
Walt and Bonnie loved to tell stories and share the old times with the grandchildren, but especially the great grandchildren. Watching both generations of them show livestock in 4-H has always been a joy for them. Of course, they would be at the sports as well when they could.
The family has been truly blessed to have each other and Walt and Bonnie have been a great example with their 70 years of marriage.
Visitation will be at Sanders Priebe Funeral Care, 315 S. Washington St., in Crawfordsville, on Sunday, Jan. 23 from 2 p.m. until the time of the Celebration of Life at 4 p.m. for Walt and Bonnie ,with Pastor Keith Strain officiating. The service will be live-steamed and recorded which can be viewed on his obituary page at www.sandersfuneralcare.com. Cremation will follow the service with the burial of cremains at Glen Cemetery in Paxton, Illinois at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to the Mace Methodist Church, 5546 E. U.S. Hwy 136, Crawfordsville, IN 47933 or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Envelopes will be provided at the funeral home.
Share memories and condolences online at www.sandersfuneralcare.com.