Charles (Chuck) Nelson, age 86, passed away on Saturday, April 1, 2017 after a long battle with cancer. He was born September 14, 1930 in Lindsay, CA to Charles H. and Ollie M. Nelson. He was the oldest of four children: Chuck, Shirley, Evelyn and Donald.
While growing up in the Lindsay/Strathmore area he helped with the family dairy and worked in his uncle Jim’s orange groves. The Nelson family moved to the West Valley area of Yakima when he graduated from high school where they farmed and started apple orchards. Within a few years the family built a small apple packing warehouse on Fisk Road.
Chuck went into the Air Force in 1950 and was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. While at Sheppard his mechanical abilities lead him to an assignment as an instructor on B-29 engines, which was a problem for him since he had a real aversion to public speaking. Also while in Texas he met and married his wife Maggie. She was a lifeguard and swimming instructor at the local swimming pool. They and their friends enjoyed swimming, roller skating, dancing and riding horses on Maggie’s family ranch.
After the birth of their daughter, Nancy Karen, they moved back to Yakima and helped build and expand the family orchard and warehouse and ran a small orchard. Chuck then began working at other warehouses where he was quickly promoted to Packing Boss and Warehouse Manager. He first worked at Nordberg Fruit at both the Westbrook and Gleed locations, then worked for 17 years at Highland Fruit in West Valley, went to Valley fruit in Wapato, Roche Fruit in Yakima, and ended his working career at Sundquist Fruit in the Moxee area. His job included being in charge of fruit production, shipping, overseeing all the machinery, and running the crew, often numbering 40-60 people. His gift for gab, mechanical ability, attention to detail, and ability to tell jokes and get along with people made him successful in his work and personal life.
Chuck had many hobbies throughout his life. He rode motorcycles (and had a small race track in the horse pasture), did stained glass, and loved cars rebuilding many throughout his life. This interest in cars led to them joining the Vintiques Car Club in 1985. He was a very active member, attending many car shows, working as a volunteer at the Vintique-sponsored Northwest Nationals. He was the Vintiques Club President and Rod Run Director in 1997.
Chuck loved fishing; whether in rivers, lakes or the ocean. He also really liked going crabbing, especially eating crab! He and Maggie made many, many trips to the ocean with family and friends. On one trip to the ocean with his daughter and grandchildren, he was trying to get Maggie to make crab omelets for breakfast. When granddaughter Breann, who was very small, heard the request, she asked “Do we have to eat crab at every meal when we’re at the ocean?”
He also made beautiful stained glass artwork and stepping stones with glass insets. He made lamps from wagon wheel hubs and walking sticks from Diamond Willow branches and other beautiful wood. He and Maggie delighted in making wooden cars and child-sized tables and chairs and doll-sized high chairs and cribs for the grandkids, which have now passed down to the great-grandchildren. He was also a talented welder. But his greatest joy and biggest smile was being with his family and helping them and his friends on projects of any kind, especially mechanical.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years Maggie, daughter Karen (Randy) Allen, grandchildren Breann (Billy) Speer, Jeff (Kari) Dean and great-grandchildren Taylor Speer, Gracie Speer, Payten Dean, Carli Speer, Shane Dean and Trevor Speer; his sister Shirley (Don) McInnis and brother Donald (Sheree) Nelson. He was preceded in death by his parents, and sister Evelyn.
The family would like to extend special thanks to Dr. Norman Shively and Nurse Kim Mauch from Yakima Urology Assoc. and Hospice R.N. Janis Nedrow for their dedicated care and outstanding support throughout his illness.
A memorial service will be held Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. at Keith and Keith Funeral Home, 902 W. Yakima Avenue, with inurnment following at West Hills Memorial Park at 11800 Douglas Road in Yakima. A memorial gathering will be held at the West Valley Memorial Church, 11107 Wide Hollow Road, Yakima.