Wilbur LeRoy Nelson, age 76, of Isanti died August 29, 2022 at Prairie Senior Cottages in Isanti. A Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 A.M. Saturday, September 10th at Faith Lutheran Church in Isanti. A Memorial Visitation will be held from 5:00 – 7:00 P.M. Friday, September 9th at Strike Life Tributes in Isanti and also one hour prior to the service Saturday at the church. Interment will be in Diamond Lake Cemetery near Aitkin at a later date.
Wilbur was born on November 5, 1945 to Charles and Leonore (Paulson) Nelson in Aitkin, MN. Wil attended school in Aitkin graduating in 1963. He attended Bemidji State College, graduating in1967 with a teaching degree in social studies, and a Master’s Degree from St. Cloud State in 1972. Wil met Karleen in the fall of 1965 at a Lutheran Student retreat near Bemidji. They were married on April 6, 1968 at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, MN. The Bemidji Luther Student Center has remained a special place in their hearts over the past 57 years. Wil also spent a number of years on the state Lutheran Campus Ministry board.
In 1972, Wil and Karleen built a home in rural Isanti where they started a family. In 1988 they built another home on 20 acres 2 miles from Isanti so their three sons could be closer to their school and activities.
Wil began his teaching career in 1967 as a junior high English/Social Studies teacher in St. Francis. He later became a high school social studies teacher at St. Francis High School where he finished his 34 year career, retiring in 2001. Wil spent a number of those years as the Student Council advisor. During the majority of his career, he was known as “The Voice of the Saints”, as he announced most of the high school sporting events in St. Francis. He also announced football games for Cambridge-Isanti when Kerry was in high school. Wil enjoyed watching Chad, Kerry, and Bjorn in their various sports or activities; while taking an active role and being great about encouraging them to try different things. Wil himself enjoyed softball as his summer activity, playing for over 30 years in local men’s leagues with some of his best friends.
In 1993, Wil did a 2-week teacher exchange in Denmark; where he got a good idea of Danish life while staying with a family there. He taught social studies in a Danish school.
Community was important to Wil as he spent some years on the Athens Township board, and as an election judge in Isanti Township.
Wil’s faith was very important to him and he was very active over the years at Our Savior’s Lutheran of Cedar and Faith Lutheran of Isanti. While attending Faith Lutheran he was a youth leader, on the church council, sang in the church choir, and was happy to preach a sermon on any given Sunday when the pastor was gone.
Wil loved to travel and planned a 2 month rail trip throughout Europe during the summer of 1973. Wil and Karleen traveled two other times to western Europe. Both of which they visited their Swedish son, Magnus, who was an exchange student living with them during the 1977-78 school year. They’ve also traveled to Mexico, Canada, and 43 states including Alaska and Hawaii .
For over 40 years, Wil and Karleen enjoyed their monthly 500 card club with their life-long friends. Finally, Wil loved going back to Aitkin where they had built a cabin in 2004 on the same lake where he grew up. To him, Aitkin was God’s country.
Wil passed away on August 29, 2022 at the age of 76. He was preceded in death by his parents; Charles and Leonore Nelson. Wil is survived by his loving wife of 54 years, Karleen; sons, Chad (Marcy), Kerry (Blanca), Bjorn (Karrie) and Magnus Karlsson (Swedish exchange student 1977-78); grandchildren, Keith, Annya, Alan, Aneliz, Claire, Matthew and Brayden; brothers, Jim (Rikki) and Bob (Judy).
Bobbi Melcher says
One of my favorites! I was his student aid for a number of years. I am so grateful for Mr. Nelson. He was such a joy to be around at school. Positive and full of smiles.
Troy Ferguson says
So sad to hear of Mr Nelson’s passing. He was a very influential person in my life and he inspired me to get my first teaching degree in Social Studies. He was a kind man who knew how to push each student to do their best. I’ll never forget when he told me I could stop calling him “Mr Nelson”, I was the superintendent at St Francis then and he told me to call him Wilbur and stop with the formalities. I have such respect for the man, my prayers to Karleen and the entire Nelson (and Karlsson) family. I will never forget you Mr Nelson,🙏
Kathi (Heckenlaible) Toliver says
Sending love to all.
Lee Carlson says
It is a great loss for us to hear that Will has left us. He was a great teacher with high standards for all he did. I miss the long conversations we had. He was a wonderful friend and colleague for so many years. We pray for all who feel this loss and specially for his family.
Ann D Eriksson says
Peter and I have fond memories of our visits with Wilbur and Karleen. He enjoyed playing cards (cribbage) with Peter. He was a very good conversationalist. We enjoyed his stories and jokes. He will keep everyone entertained in HEAVEN! Our loving thoughts and prayers to the Nelson Family.
Traci (Kronschnabel) OConnell says
So sorry for to hear of his passing. He was a great man and an amazing teacher. God’s blessings to you all during this very difficult time.
Don Cora Vandermey says
We will never forget the many years of being next door neighbors to Wilbur and Karleen. We couldn’t have had any better if we picked them ourselves. So many amazing memories card games, dinners together, going dancing, going on trips, raising our children , and the list goes on. Our heart is broken for the Nelson family. Peace be with you dear friend.🙏🥰
Cindy Williams Rogers says
Mr. Nelson/Wilbs was my favorite teacher and such a wonderful man. I have so many memories of him. Prayers and thoughts to the family. I was in the class of 78 so know Mags too. God Bless.
Sandy Olson says
Karleen and family,
So sorry to hear of Wilbur’s passing. Knowing him through our church choir , working in the same district, and as a teacher to my kids was a blessing. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this sad time in your life.
Terri Ahlberg says
One of a kind! Mr. Nelson was a wonderful teacher & human! My very favorite teacher at St. F. HE was exceptional in a world full of ordinary. He will be deeply missed.
Class of ’77
Paul Gadway says
I had the privilege of meeting Wilbur at Bible Camp and fondly remember playing basketball in the hayloft at the Nelson farm. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Nelson family as we remember Wilbur.
Julie Knutson Cross says
Mr Nelson was my favorite teacher in both middle school and high school. He was also our advisor for model united nations.
Our sympathies and prayers to you both Chad and Marcy and to your family. May God Bless you both and family
Jeff and Lisa Radunzel-Coleman
Jacoby Carlson says
I was in Mr. Nelson’s first class at St. Francis, the fall of 1967; 7th grade American History and then Geography the next year. Great teacher and a classy guy.
Bud Flagstad says
I was very fortunate to have Mr. Nelson as my teacher for Social Studies and Study Hall. He is someone I never forgot and thoroughly enjoyed being in his class. We did have a fair amount of shenanigans and he managed us well. Never losing his temper when he probably should have. What a great guy and wonderful role model that we had the opportunity to be taught by.
SFHS Class of 1985
Sandra Bacon Haag says
Our Sincerest Condolences Karlene to you, your family and friend’s with Wilbur’s passing. May Loving memories remain in your hearts, the rest do not matter. Gentle Hugs!
mike bell says
A great person and teacher. Played with him on a softball team for a long time, till we got to old to play. Played in the Cambridge -Isanti area. Got to know him beyond a teacher, but an outstanding person. The world and friends and family will miss him. God bless your family
Jacob Gillard says
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (The Revelation to John 14:13 NIV)
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” (Philippians 1:21-24)
— Jake Gillard, SFHS 1991
Steve Nelson says
I never had the pleasure of having Mr. Nelson as a teacher; I was a junior at StFHS when he began his career there, I graduated in ’69. My sincerest condolences to Wil’s family and friends. Gone to soon, RIP.
Bob and Lois Salo says
Karleen and Family, our blessings and prayers are with you.
As we all look back at our years of life, one can remember “special” people that have been pivotal in shaping our lives. Everywhere I turn there are exceptional memories of Wilbur. He has made a remarkable impact on my Christian faith throughout our elementary, Junior High, Senior High, college, and teaching years (e.g. Sunday school, Bible camp, Luther League, and Campus Lutheran Student Center). Wilbur, along with his parents and two brothers have represented the spirit of a Christian family at First Lutheran Church (Aitkin) over the years.
Wilbur has carried on this Christ – centered mission throughout his college years at Bemidji State (college roommates at the Lutheran Student Center; actually six of us and we still call ourselves the “brothers). Wilbur was “best man” at our wedding. It is amazing that he and I taught for over 30 years in “next door” (St. Francis, and Cambridge – Isanti) school districts. In fact, he was my substitute teacher when I traveled to Japan with our foreign exchange program.
I believe that Galatians may say it best when describing Wilbur > Galatians 5:22 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
A wise person will always be remembered. Wilbur was a wise man.
Bob and Lois Salo
Pat Hunter Shaw says
Mr. Nelson was one of my favorite teachers at St. Francis. He helped me out as an advisor for an independent study course so that could do both band and concert choir my senior year. He will be missed. Sending thoughts and prayers to his family.
Dan Hansen says
Wilbur was quite the Packers fan. I had the joy of a road trip with Wilbur and his sons Chad and Kerry to the city of Green Bay to watch a game. Fun weekend!
Magnus Karlsson says
The world is Missing another good man. RIP Wilbur, you and the entire Nelson family have made ankor if what I am today❤️
Jeremy Derby says
I will always remember Wilbur as being a very nice and caring person. Bjorn and I sure did test his patience a few times. He was a great man and I know he brought happiness and wisdom to many people and one was me. God bless you Wilbur and my heart and prayers are with you Nelson Family.
Russ Bakke SFHS Class of 1984 says
When Mr. Nelson would call our football games, if there were too many tacklers to count, he would say the tackle was made by “a host of Saints”. When he went to his reward, he was greeted by a “ host of family and friends “ because there would have been too many to count.
Joel E. Olson says
Mr. Nelson was a memorable guy. He was always kind to me and my friends. He was knowledgeable and a very nice man. When I was a high school student, Wilbur was a teacher, and I also saw him occasionally after he retired when he subbed in the building after I became at teacher at SFHS.
I am very sorry for your loss.
SFHS Class of ’85
Earl and Gayle Mathison says
We remember, with love and care, Wilbur as a fellow LSA (Lutheran Student Association) brother at Bemidji State College in the mid-1960s. He and Karleen were and continue to be loved and honored for their Christian witness. Rest in peace, dear brother! Karleen and family – may you have God’s comfort and peace as you continue Wilbur’s legacy of caring for and being helpful to others. Wilbur will be missed but we look forward to our shared promise in Christ – that we will live on forever in God’s love and care as promised in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have Eternal Life!”
Bob Janzen says
Wilbur was an inspiring classmate and I always enjoyed his company. You all have my sincere sympathy. Bob Janzen
Cory Dahl says
I have many fond memories of “Mr. Nelson” who supervised my semester of student teaching at St. Francis High School in the Fall of 1979. He was a great mentor; I learned much from him, and have thought about him countless times over the decades.
Our mutual friend, Lee Carlson, dropped off the memorial service folder today at First Baptist Church of Sturgeon Bay (where I’ve been pastor since 1988 and with whom he worships when in Door County) and I appreciated being able to see the order of service and think about the “perfect” Scripture readings and “hear” the terrific hymns that were part of the service.
My sympathy to Karleen and the whole family.