Gary Martin Nelson, aged 87, most recently from Petersburg, ND, took his last breath at 4:50 pm on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at Altru Hospital with the love of his life lying by his side.
Gary was born on August 17, 1933 in Kevin, Montana, the son of Martin Johannes Nelson and Muriel (Harbaugh) Nelson. When his mother decided she was unwilling to continue parenting him, his parents divorced and his father raised him with the assistance of his maternal grandparents. When Gary was 6 years old, his father married Rika Vandenbroeke and was blessed with three younger siblings. They lived in Cutbank, Montana for many years where Gary attended elementary and high school. Here he enjoyed riding his horse Poncho with his friends and their horses. He was very adventurous and managed to break both legs while riding bicycle down the steep hill behind his house.
Gary attended college for a year, then spent four years in the Air Force, stationed mainly in Fortuna, North Dakota. (He transitioned to the National Guard and served our country for over 20 years). He returned to college at Concordia, where he met the love of his life in trigonometry (the only good thing about math class). Gary married Annetta Belle Sherbrooke in June of 1960 less than a week after receiving his BA degree. He started training to be an office manager, worked as a car salesman and then became an accountant for Lutheran Hospitals and Homes. It was at this point that son Mark John Nelson was born.
An opportunity arose for employment in Washington state, so the family moved to Moses Lake. On the train ride to move there, Gary and Annetta lost their stillborn son, Bruce Alan Nelson. Gary spent about a year and a half in Aberdeen Washington and eventually became the manager of his own Montgomery Ward's store in Moses Lake. At some point during this time, Rebecca Marie Nelson was born.
Gary returned to Concordia in the fall of 1967 to take teacher education courses, which is also when Kirsten Lynn Nelson (Minnerath) was born, completing the first branch of their own family tree. Gary worked as a principal in Riverdale, ND while completing his School Administration master’s degree at NDSU. After this he was the superintendent in Cleveland, Sheyenne, and Aneta, ND, where he was influential in many young lives.
Once all of his kids were out of high school, Gary was ready for a change and accepted a position as a nursing home administrator with the Good Samaritan Society. Gary spent 10 years working full time (in Osnabrock, ND and Corsica, SD) until his retirement in 1996, then spent another decade doing interim work in various communities. He was respected by those who worked for him due to his compassion, ability to listen and to be part of the solution to troubles people were experiencing.
Gary and Annetta decided to retire in Petersburg, ND – which was close enough to see family, yet a long distance call away (pre-cell phone times!). In retirement, Gary continued to enjoy the motorcycling he had enjoyed in younger years (and had shared his love of with his children). They enjoyed traveling to see family in Bolivia, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona and down the road in Lakota.
Gary always put his family first. He taught his grandkids how to drive, instilled a love for candy, pancakes and huckleberry jam, and made sure they knew how to climb on the monkey bars. Everyone had a motorcycle ride at some point and he only tipped over once or twice. He loved all of his grandchildren – those who were biological, those who joined through family relationships and those who lived in the neighborhood.
Gary will be missed by his wife Annetta, children Mark (Terressa) Nelson, Becky Nelson (Tom Hendrickson) and Kirsten (Steve) Minnerath, 19 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, brothers Dennis (Marah) Nelson and Jim (Karen) Nelson and many nieces and nephews. He is now reunited with his infant son Bruce and other family members who passed before him.
A visitation will be held at the Aaker Funeral Home in Lakota ND on Thursday, February 4, at 5:00 pm with a service at 7:00 pm. Visitation will continue at Petersburg Lutheran Church at 10:00 am on Friday, February 5, followed by a funeral at 11:00 am.
Gary’s family is aware that travel can be challenging at this time. For those who would like to be here with us, but are unable to travel to the service please consider making a donation to Petersburg Lutheran Church, a local veterans’ group, or a different charity of your choice (in lieu of flowers).
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Gary Nelson, please visit our floral store.