Reverend Colonel Elbert Leroy Nelson Jr. passed away peacefully surrounded by his family, Sept. 14. Known as Lee, he was born in Lufkin, Texas to Elbert Leroy Sr. and Wilma Madeline Nelson on Jan. 25, 1930.
Rev. Nelson was preceded in death by his parents, four siblings, and granddaughter Jamie Jacquellyn Scott. He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Mary Frances Nelson, the mother of his children, Joan J. Nelson, and children Carolyn Nelson-Becker and husband Keith Becker, Mary Hannah Bradley and husband Mark Bradley, Anne Nelson Emmerich and husband Frank Emmerich, Timothy John Nelson and wife Kathi Nelson and step-daughter Melinda Lowe and husband Jeff Lowe. Also surviving him are nine grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends who loved him.
Rev. Nelson was raised in Worthington, Ohio and graduated from the Ohio State University and Princeton University Seminary, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He began his career as a Presbyterian minister in the United States Army as a Chaplain in 1955 and rose to rank of Colonel through his active duty and reserve Army years. His first civilian church was in Dalton, Nebraska. Then with his wife and four children he moved to Seoul, Korea to minister to American Service Personnel through the National Council of Churches. In 1967, the family moved to Omaha, Nebraska and Miller Park Presbyterian Church. In his long and varied career, he served other churches in Omaha, Nebraska; Columbus, Mississippi; Decatur and Mattoon, Illinois; Carrollton, Massillon and New Philadelphia, Ohio; and Gonzales, Texas. He also served as interim college president to Mary Holmes College in West Point, Mississippi.
After “retirement,” Rev. Nelson and his wife Mary Frances moved to their ranch outside of Harwood, Texas. Lee raised polled Hereford cattle and continued to serve churches in the area when needed including the Presbyterian church in Luling. The family joked that his Herefords were the most pampered breeding cattle in Texas and all enjoyed many fun gatherings of family and friends at the ranch. Those years included many happy memories.
In the spring of 2018, Lee and Mary moved to Galveston, Texas to be closer to family. They have been lovingly embraced by the First Presbyterian Church family in Galveston and by all who have met them.
Lee loved God, his family, his cattle ranch, the US Army, a good bargain, Ohio State football, roses, Snoopy, cowboy movies, John Wayne, his “cottage” at Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada, dogs, fishing, mashed potatoes, lemon meringue pie and donut holes.
A memorial service at First Presbyterian Church in Galveston will be held Saturday, Sept. 21 at 11 am. All are invited to a reception following the service in the church fellowship hall.
In lieu of flowers a scholarship fund in his name has been created at Princeton University Seminary.
This was posted on Facebook by Lee Nelson’s first grandchild Heather, and says it well. “A legend. A leader. A pastor. A missionary. A Colonel. A carpenter. A rancher. A husband. A father. A grandfather. A great-grandfather. My grandpa, Rev. Elbert Leroy Nelson Jr. What a life he’s led, the example he’s been and the legacy he leaves us! We’ve been blessed by your love, kindness and zest for life. Jesus is waiting for you to restore you to brand new. Watch over us until we are home all together once again. We love you. #Doublemint Gum”