Kenneth L. Nelson, 85, of Columbia, died March 1, 2021, in Columbia. He was born July 26, 1935, in Sandy Township, Pa., son of the late George and Grace (nee Heberling) Nelson. He was married to his childhood sweetheart the late Beverly (nee Lydick) Nelson. They were married Jan. 1, 1957. She passed away Jan. 2, 2019.
Ken spent his youth in Du Bois, Pa. as the second to last son of nine children. He joined the U.S. Navy out of high school during the Korean War serving for four years while stationed in Newfoundland. Following his service, Ken and Bev relocated to the Midwest as he attended Parks College in Cahokia. While attending school, John F. Kennedy made a declaration of placing a man on the moon putting the aerospace industry in full swing. This launched Ken’s lifelong career which started at McDonald Douglas working on the Gemini program and then he moved to the Army working on the now famous Blackhawk program for the rest of his professional career. Ken and Bev moved to rural Columbia where they spent their years raising their three children. He enjoyed working on any mechanical device as he could repair or repurpose just about anything. People in the community always knew that if they needed tools, a bushel of produce, or a helping hand for any project, they could call Ken. This willingness to help anyone was evident the rest of his life.
Surviving are sons Douglas (Michele) Nelson of Columbia and Craig (Julie) Nelson of Columbia; grandchildren Brittany (Brett) Toenjes, Katie Stahr, Samantha Nelson, Amber (Garret) Kasper, Gabriel Nelson, Sophia Nelson and Jacob Nelson; great-grandchildren, Daltyn’s Smith, Tessa Toenjes, Rylee Toenjes, Spencer Kempen, Hunter Kempen, Oliver Kasper and Suzie Kasper; sister Shirley Cantor of PA.; brother Howard Nelson of Wash.; along with other relatives and friends.
He was also preceded in death by his daughter Susan J. Jeffery in Jan. 2018; grandchild Crystal L. Becherer in Dec. 2016; parents George and Grace Nelson; four brothers; and two sisters.
Visitation will be March, 9 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at Leesman Funeral Home, Columbia.
A memorial service will be held immediately following the visitation.
Private family interment will follow in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions be directed to: Hospice of Southern Illinois, Inc. 305 South Illinois Street, Belleville.