William Howard “Izzy” Nelson passed away on Jan. 6, 2020, at his home in Moab, Utah.
My adventure on this planet began in Dillon, Montana, on May 27, 1936. For quite a while preceding this event, my dad fielded the question “Izzy a boy or izzy a girl?” leading to my nickname, “Izzy.”
I have little memory of my early life, but I have a reminder of a significant event when, at two years of age, I tipped over a percolator of boiling coffee at the Camp Bird Mine, pouring it all over the front of me. My dad snowshoed me to The Miner’s Hospital in Ouray, Colorado. I survived but retained the scars for the rest of my life.
By the time I was ready for school (6-years-old and first grade back then) we had moved to Telluride, Colorado. There was probably nothing much to distinguish myself there other than being a good trumpet player. I acquired two sisters, Bridget and Pat. I had various jobs from a young age and was raised with a good work ethic. One of those jobs was at the newspaper and printing shop where, unbeknownst to me, I learned a marketable skill.
In 1954, I left for The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. I realized I was a
printer and had no problem finding work, and work that paid well. Since then I have
encouraged kids to learn a trade while in high school—it can really pay off.
The highlight for me in college was participating in A Phi 0, a national service fraternity. We did good things, and I made many lasting friends.
Later in college, raging hormones prevailed and I got married to Wendy Bennett. To
avoid getting drafted or losing the GI benefits, I signed up with the National Guard for six years. After basic training, I could return to school. While in basic, I got a taste of
political influence. The print shop where I was working had a union election and I was
outspoken anti-union. One of the owners was a New Mexico politician, and I got sent
from Fort Ord, California to Albuquerque to vote in that election.
In 1960, a fraternity brother named Dave Rivera and I left school to work a uranium lease in Moab where my parents were living. We anticipated making our fortune and returning to school. Shortly thereafter my wife followed, having graduated from the University of New Mexico. No kids yet. No fortune for us. I never left.
After a few years working in the mines, a local print shop and at the Moab Times-Independent, my dad and I started the Fix-It Shop, a small-time repair business that blossomed into Nelson’s TV and Refrigeration. Dave worked there for a while, got married, and moved north to pursue a career more in line with his college education.
My wife moved to Arizona to pursue her master’s degree with our two kids, Stephanie and Eric. Our divorce shortly followed; however, we remained on good terms. Eric and Stephanie were, for the most part, raised by their mother. They ended up responsible adults with a good work ethic. They often spent summers with me. Stephanie says she learned her love and respect for the outdoors from me. “I would never litter after having to pick up all that trash along the way while we were driving up into the mountains as kids.” Daddy proud? You bet!
During this time, I became involved in the Jaycees, Toastmasters, the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and the Fire Service. I served as president of Rotary and of the Chamber of Commerce, accomplishing nothing outstanding in either case.
As for the Fire Service, Dick Hammer and I stirred the pot at our troubled fire department, resulting in our firing, subsequent reinstatement and the hiring of a full-time fire chief with the instructions to address the issues we had raised. Over a period of time, the department evolved into probably the most outstanding volunteer department in the State of Utah.
I spent 46 years with the Fire Service, 16 as a fireman and 30 as an elected commissioner where I served as Chairman of the Fire Board.
Marriage number two was to Rocky (Judy) Pratt, the widowed wife of my high school science teacher, good friend, the best man at my first wedding and someone who had much influence in my continued education. With this wedding came three stepsons: Lance, Jan and Karl. This marriage lasted eight years. During that time, we camped and hiked a good portion of the La Sal Mountains. She is now deceased and I remain close to Jan, who still lives in Moab.
My third and longest-lasting marriage occurred in 1977 to Lois Frazier, with a bonus of four more step-children: Pam, Lisa, Joe and Robert. I did not adopt them but consider them like my own flesh and blood. Lois and I “clicked” and we spent many happy years together. With good humor in mind, Lois became known as the Wicked Stepmother.
When my dad retired, I got out of the electronics part of the business, bought a building on the south end of town and, with trepidation, left downtown Moab. It was a good move. From 1980 on, the business grew and prospered.
In 1981, we put our money where our mouth was and built a high-mass solar home with solar domestic hot water and a solar greenhouse on Arches Drive. In 1995, the Chamber of Commerce named me Businessman of the Year, an award I was quite proud of.
In 1993, dad died and, per his instructions, we put my mother in a home in Grand Junction as an Alzheimer’s patient, where she died two and a half years later, a miserable time for all involved. Lois and I traveled to Grand Junction nearly every weekend for those two and a half years. Alzheimer’s is a terrible way to end your life.
We bought out my sisters’ interest in my parents’ smaller house, giving up our house on the hill.
I kept busy working, camping, fishing and with the Fire Service until 2005, when I sold the business to Monte Curtis, a longtime employee, and traded my work uniform for Hawaiian shirts and shorts. I later retired from the Fire Service and after a few years pretty much traded fishing for geocaching with my son and best friend Eric and hiking with my dog Bingo. Thirteen years of enjoyable retirement and I was not a nuisance to Lois.
In 2019, the BIG C took over my life and it was suggested that I write my own obituary, so here it is. It turned out more like an autobiography. Blood draws, chemo infusions and scans did their job and for several months I had a pretty good quality of life, more so than was predicted. I had plenty of time to get my life in order so hopefully I didn’t leave a mess for others. My caregivers were helpful, compassionate and considerate without exception. It certainly made the last year easier to deal with. Friends and family provided abundant help where and when needed. Bless them all!
At Izzy’s request, cremation has taken place and a private family service will be held at a later date. Condolences may be sent to the family at www.SpanishValleyMortuary.com.