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Albert LaVern Nelson
Albert LaVern Nelson, known as LaVern, was born on December 1, 1924 in "the big white house" in Wallace, Kansas during a whiteout blizzard. He passed away on December 5, 2022, just after his 98th birthday celebrating with friends & family in Durango, Colorado.
LaVern's parents were Effie Frazier & Albert Nelson. They were farmers doing what they could to survive during the Dust Bowl & the Depression. LaVern attended 13 elementary schools & lived in 5 states during his childhood, including Colorado where he attended school in Central City & Black Hawk. LaVern helped his family by delivering newspapers, selling rocks to tourists, & running the film projector at the local theater in Benkelman, NE. LaVern enjoyed his time outdoors his entire life & continued to use the skills he developed as an Eagle Scout.
LaVern & his family were living in Denver when he was drafted into the Army Air Corps at age 18 for WWII, prior to his graduation. He served as a bombardier flying B17, B24, B29 & B32 bombers. LaVern left the military as Captain in 1946.
Following the military, he enrolled at Kansas State University where he studied Agriculture. He was a member of the FarmHouse Fraternity & lived above the dairy barn where he worked to fund his education.
He met Loranell Anderson, his future wife, in Ruleton, KS. She was a beautiful blonde school teacher in a one room schoolhouse living just up the road from his folks. They married in August of 1948 in Goodland, KS.
LaVern & Loranell worked hard as a team to build a successful farm & ranch south of Goodland. They raised two daughters, Anita & Kristi. Darrel Andrist lived & worked on the farm & became a treasured part of the family.
The family planted 1200+ trees, built barns, numerous outbuildings & a feed yard to accommodate 500 head of cattle. LaVern & Loranell raised Beefmaster cattle & branded with lazy LN. They built Harvestore silos, grain bins & managed over 6000 acres of pasture & cropland. The family built a solar, underground home & the property was lined with white fences all kept immaculate by LaVern & Loranell. It was an impressive sight on the Kansas prairie.
LaVern was always active in his Kansas community, serving on the Sherman County Extension Board & the Sherman County Farm Bureau Board. He was named Kansas Farm Bureau Leader of the Year representing the state at their annual conference in Washington, D.C.. LaVern also served on the Goodland State Bank Board of Directors, the Kansas Livestock Association, the Northwest Kansas District Fair Board, Chairman of the Finance Committee building a new church for the First United Methodist Church in Goodland, a Gideon & on the Northwest Kansas Farm Management Board. He was appointed to the State Council of the Arts by the Governor. He was a 4-H Club leader & 4-H camp counselor. In Sherman County he also served on the Farmstead Appraisal Board & The Farm & Home Loan Association Board.
LaVern was ahead of his time as a dedicated & innovative conservationist, leading the way with new farming techniques, contour farming, terracing to reduce soil erosion & water conservation. He served on the Sherman County Conservation Board for over 35 years. He was elected to the Kansas State Conservation Board in Topeka.
The Nelson family was awarded the "Balanced Farming & Family Living' Award in 1952 & named "Kansas Farm Family of the Year" at the American Royal in Kansas City in 1966 & received the "Master Farmer/Master Homemaker" recognition in 1979.
Even during his busy schedule farming in Kansas, LaVern dedicated time to volunteer with the Colorado Trail (a 500 mile hiking trail from Durango to Denver) founded by a family friend, Gudy Gaskill, originally from Goodland. The Nelsons semi-retired to Durango in 1998. LaVern kept busy working with the Colorado Trail actively clearing & maintaining trails & setting up base camps for other visiting crew for over a dozen years & making "Nelson's Rests" on the trails. When he was no longer able to do manual trailwork, LaVern was an active supporter & was recognized for his many contributions in 2016. He is also known for discovering & constructing "The Four County Seats'' in 2001 high in the San Juan Mountains, where he sought out a long forgotten geographic stone & tree marker dating back to 1880. There, with the help of his 7 pals they located the corners of La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan & Dolores counties. Then he created & installed a landmark which the Forest Service designated as a historical interpretive site.
In Durango, LaVern volunteered at the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad as he was inspired by his daughter, Kristi's love of trains. He was an active member of Evening Rotary where he received the "Volunteer of the Year" award. He also volunteered regularly with Manna Soup Kitchen, Habitat for Humanity & was a lifetime member of the Durango Elks Lodge #507. He was influential in recruiting his grandson by marriage, Justin, to be an active member in Elks & Rotary.
One of LaVern's favorite Durango involvements had been his 20+ years associated with the Strater Hotel daily morning coffee club which he was invited to join by his son-in-law, Chet Wigton. Ironically, he wasn't a coffee drinker, his beverage of choice was "milk on the rocks". The camaraderie & heartfelt friendships developed through the years was always a true highlight of his day.
LaVern's life was filled with fun & youthful activities. When not working or volunteering, he particularly enjoyed reading about history, following current events, woodworking, including building hundreds of bluebird houses, welding rustic art sculptures, flying kites, traveling (especially Hawaii), downhill skiing, camping, hiking, going to church, bible study & eating ice cream on pancakes with double syrup. He was known for his ingenuity & creativity by fixing things with bailing wire & electrical tape, which his family coined "LaVernizing". He had a love for music, especially Ukulele. He treasured his family. In 2021, he was elated to attend the wedding of his granddaughter & praised Joseph, for being an asset to the family. He thrived on being an involved grandparent & great grandparent. He was the best & most beloved Grandpa!
He cherished time with dear companion, Betty Willis, special neighbor, Margaret Turnell & his "Tuesday Girls" lunch outings with friends from church. LaVern started attending Parkside Baptist Church in 2013 & was baptized there on April 7, 2019. He was proud of the stained glass installation in his church, which was created by his daughter, Anita Wigton.
LaVern was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Loranell Nelson, infant brother; Wade Nelson, sister; Val Jean Pluid, granddaughter; Krystal Zillinger & sons-in-law; Chester Wigton, M.D. & Larry Cohen, D.V.M., as well as, his favorite dogs; Rusty & Handsome Cowboy.
LaVern is survived by his daughters; Anita Wigton & Kristi Nelson, granddaughters; Sallie Kautter (Justin Kautter) & Sadie Baumgart (Joseph Baumgart, D.M.D.) & great grandsons; Talisker & Cashel Kautter, all of Durango.
LaVern was the definition of a good man & role model. He taught by example & never met a stranger. He will be fondly remembered by his good deeds, strong faith, hearty laugh, saying,"Oh Boy!", kind & playful spirit & joyful optimism. He will be greatly missed by his adoring friends & family.
His family would like to recognize the loving care he received by Sunshine Gardens Assisted Living, Cottonwood Rehab Facility, Mercy Home Health & Shining Stars.
Like the animals, trees & rocks, I am simply a part of it. The farm, the forest & ocean were written into me like fingerprints. I am not alone. I never will be. My roots run deep. There is nothing better than being out in the soil & the sun. ~Unknown
Memorial contributions in LaVern Nelson's name may be made to the Colorado Trail Foundation at 710 10th Street, Rm. 210, Golden, CO 80401-0728. www.ColoradoTrail.org (303) 384-3729.
Hood Mortuary - Durango
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