Health battles never kept volunteer down

Vietnam veteran DeWayne Nelson passes at age 69

Cliff Buchan
News Editor

More than two decades of battling health issues might have been too much for some guys. But not DeWayne Nelson.

Working the VFW Christmas tree lot in Forest Lake was one of the volunteer jobs that DeWayne Nelson took on for Post 4210. (File photo)

Through years of health issues that included three kidney transplants and bouts with cancer, Nelson carried on life with the drive and spirit that only a few can imagine. Be it helping out at his church, Faith Lutheran in Forest Lake, or VFW Post 4210, Nelson was there, doing what he could, when he could.

Bill Olson, a past commander at Post 4210, was always amazed at Nelson’s continued efforts despite health setbacks time and time again. “About anything you needed,” Olson said of his friend. “All you had to do was call.”

A retired heavy equipment operator, Nelson also worked for Chisago County driving veterans to the VA Hospital in Minneapolis. It was part-time work two and three days a week with his shift sometimes starting at 4 a.m.

“He was very dedicated to that job,” Olson said.

Nelson had received his third kidney transplant in 2005 and had been in relatively good health until this past winter. The third kidney transplant had come from his son, Bradley.

Nelson History

Nelson grew up on a farm seven miles outside Paynesville, graduating high school there in 1960. He was working as a heavy equipment operator prior to entering the Army in 1967. He spent a year in Vietnam with the 15th Combat Aviation Battalion.

He worked on helicopter maintenance for gun ships and medical evacuation duties. He logged more than 150 hours of flight time as part of a flight crew that would go into the field in attempts to repair mechanical problems on downed choppers.

Nelson and his wife, Karen, moved to Wyoming in 1971. He had resumed employment in construction and joined the Wyoming Fire Department. In the late 1980s he began treatment for a kidney disorder and underwent his first transplant in 1988. The organ gave him nine good years and he retired in 1995 only to experience problems again in 1997 as the kidney failed.

A second transplant followed in 2000 after a series of operations to remove his gall bladder, spleen and the bad kidney. For three years he lived with dialysis awaiting the new kidney. The kidney functioned until 2003 when it failed as the kidney disease returned. Two years later his life was saved again when his son donated a kidney.

DeWayne LeRoy Nelson is survived by his wife, sons Bradley and Steven, two grandsons, one brother and one sister. A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m., Thursday, May 10 at Faith Lutheran Church.

He will be laid to rest with full military honors at Scandinavian Cemetery, Forest Lake.

“I will just miss being around DeWayne,” Olson said. “He talked a lot and was full of BS. At first you didn’t know if he was kidding or not. But he was a good honest man.”

Memorials are preferred to the family. They may be sent to the family in care of Roberts Family Funeral Home, 555 SW Centennial Drive, Forest Lake, MN 55025.