Born: May 24, 1927
Died: April 04, 2012
A Celebration of Darrell's life will be held on Monday April 10th at 2:00 PM at the Oconto Community Building in Oconto, NE. Burial will be in the Oconto Cemetery with Govier Brothers Mortuary of Broken Bow in charge of the arrangements. Visitation will be held on Sunday 1 PM to 6 PM at Govier Brothers Mortuary.
Obituary of Darrell James Nelson
…as written by Darrell, because he wanted it to “be correct”. Perhaps there is a little ego involved, but after 84 years of humble, that should be excusable. There may be some opinion, but mostly just facts that can be confirmed if you want to take the trouble. These final words are a little long, but it averages out to about one minute for each decade, and I do not think that is unreasonable.
Darrell James Nelson, eldest child of James A and Hallie Myers Nelson was born May 24, 1927 on the “Bowling Place” 14 miles south of Broken Bow, Nebraska. He died April 4, 2012.
He started school in the New Hope District, moving to the Round Hill District in 1934, and graduating from Broken Bow High School in May of 1944, where in 2007 he was honored by being chosen as “Alumnus of the year”.
When his parents moved in March of 1934, he was 6 years old, and he drove the team, Millie and Kelly, on a wagon to help with the move. The wise old team probably didn’t need him very much. Prior to that time he was unemployed. One of his teachers, about the 7th and 8th grade, Susan Hothem Triplett, inspired him to believe in his own abilities, and helped him understand how hard work and reasoning would help a person to succeed in life.
The 1920s were years of drought and depression, and Darrell’s values were formed during exceedingly hard times. The proverb of the times was, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” In later years, some of his colleagues chided him about his conservatism, but that was learned forcefully very early in life. On trips to town, which occurred not more than a dozen times per year, the allowance was a nickel. He had two pairs of overalls, one for chores, and one for school. They might have had patches, but they were clean.
The drought had a lifetime effect on Darrell. Crops were planted each spring, some years a little bit was produced, other years nothing. Summer temperatures were often over 100 degrees, and his mother would ask one of the children to go to the windmill and catch a quart fruit jar of water. This was her only relief from the heat. His parents were able to feed six kids by raising a large garden, milking cows, keeping a large flock of chickens and ducks and some pigs.
In his senior year of high school, World War II was raging, and the senior boys were given a scholastic test to qualify for college scholarship in preparation for either the Army or the Navy. Darrell passed that test and qualified for the scholarship, but since he was only 16, he was too young to enlist which was a prerequisite to college entrance. Darrell did most of the tractor farming for his parents for 4 years then when his brother Vaughn graduated from high school they rented land from Vance Smith and started farming for themselves, farming their parents land in exchange for use of machinery.
In March of 1945, his father had the chance to buy a piece of land, later known as “the North Place”, but because Darrell was planning to enlist and go to college that fall, and the other boys were still quite young, they would need help to farm more land. After much deliberation, Darrell decided to forgo the scholarship and stay on the farm so his parents could buy the land. The job brought only minimal pay, sometimes $10 per month, sometimes less, but in those days it was drilled into kids that they had a duty to their parents. Although he regretted the loss of a college education, in later years he realized that he made the right choice. The North place was developed for irrigation in 1950, and with other land purchases at rock bottom prices his parents put together an economically viable farm. In their later years, James and Hallie were able to travel and enjoy some of the better things of life. Hallie was in the nursing home for 13 years, and it was the rent from the farm, particularly the north place which enabled her to pay her own bills for all those years.
In 1950, Vaughn and Darrell lost the lease on part of the land they had been farming, so Darrell took a job with Rex Thomas of Sumner. That August Darrell and Cleo Glendy of Oconto were married. That marriage lasted for 61 years. They started their own operation southwest of Ansley on a shoestring. In later years, when a banker asked Darrell about his net worth he replied, “I started farming with 3 cows, 4 sows, and a wife. All the rest is profit!”
The early fifties were also drought years. David Wayne was born in 1951 and soon to follow was Kenneth Carlin in 1952. Beverly Kay was born the last of June, 1954. After spending a week with Darrell’s mother, when the baby finally came home, it was 116 degrees. That was the day the corn crop went the trip. Darrell took two window screens, packed the space between with excelsior, ran a garden hose sprinkler across the top, put the screens in a window and an electric fan in front. The baby was placed in a basket on the dining room table in front of the window, and the rest of us gathered behind the table as a refuge from the heat.
The next year, 1955, Darrell and Cleo were able to lease the Pressey land on the South Loup River north of Oconto, near Cleo’s parents. While living on the Pressey Place, 3 more children were added to the family, Lynae Arlene in 1956, Janice Kathleen in 1961, and Donald James in 1964.
In past years there had been some irrigation from the river for the Pressey land, and Darrell was able to rejuvenate the old pump and re-establish the irrigation. That year turned out to be another hot year. But by throwing mud all day and sand from in front of the pump all night he was able to raise a good crop of corn. The next year he received recognition for the highest officially measured corn yield in the county, 164 bushels per acre. During those years he raised large numbers of hogs, feeding his home grown corn to them. He was also building up his cow herd.
In the mid sixties Darrell was elected Chairman of the Custer Rural Area Development Committee. This group worked and organized various opportunities for farm people to increase their income. He was asked to help other counties organize committees.
Darrell and Cleo were active in the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Oconto. Darrell served as lay leader, and taught a Sunday School class for many years. Cleo played the piano, or later the organ and Darrell had charge of the kids in the second pew on the left behind the organ. In a talk to a group of preachers he once said, “I have done something no preacher has ever done: I have taught 6 kids to sit still in church!!”
Vance Smith retired from the Board of Directors of Custer Public Power District in 1969, and he suggested Darrell Nelson as his replacement. In 1970, Darrell’s career in Public Power began which lasted for 41 years. He was a member of the Custer Board which began an irrigation load management program at Custer. Load management leveled out the peak demand from daytime hours (peak) to night (off-peak) thus reducing the peak demand charges from the supplier. In later years other Rural Electrics across the State adopted load management. It has been estimated that this savings in peak demand, and the delay in constructing new generation has decreased rates by up to 30 million dollars per year over the past 25 to 30 years.
After 14 1/2 years on the Custer Board, Darrell was elected to the Board of Directors of the Nebraska Public Power District. He held several officer positions, but had no desire to be Chairman, he thought the duties too much of a conflict with developing and adopting new concepts and ideas. He served as Chairman of the Strategic Planning Committee, the nuclear committee, the Irrigation and Hydro Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Energy Supply Committee which provides oversight for the coal, gas and hydro generation resources, and more recently for energy conservation and research.
In 2005, Darrell suggested to the Board of Directors that NPPD should become involved in energy research from domestic sources in an attempt to decrease US dependence on foreign oil. Two million dollars on an annual basis was committed to this effort, and in 2006, a collaboration with the University of Nebraka was formed and the Center for Energy Sciences Research was formed. The first year 14 research projects were funded, all led by University of Nebraska PhD skilled researchers.
In 2006, Darrell and Cleo moved to Broken Bow. One of the few extravagances was an automatic sprinkler system for the lawn. Darrell enjoyed sitting on the deck very early in the morning and watching the sprinklers keep the lawn a rich vibrant green. After living through so many years of drought, it was comforting to see the sprinklers running.
In January 2011, Darrell “officially” retired from NPPD Board of Directors, but during the next year he was often called upon for consultation, advice and his opinion.
In October 2011, he was awarded the honor of Director Emeritus of Nebraska Public Power District. He was very humbled by this honor and believed it somehow validated his life of learning.
Darrell is survived by his wife of 61 years, Cleo, and wanted to say this to her………….. “My wife, My Bride, My love. My companion. How many diapers? How many potatoes? How many tears dried? How many hymns played for worship services? Piano Teacher. How many times have I said “I love you?” Not often enough. I say it to you once more sweetheart. I love you…..August 27, 1950, the best day of my life!!!
He is also survived by his son David, and his wife Gaylene of Oconto, grandsons Adrian and Jared, great-grandchildren, Dylan, Shey, Dakota, and Ciptyn.
Ken and wife Cindy of Lexington,Kentucky. Granddaughter Jennifer and Jason Holzbach and great grandchildren Julia and James.
Beverly and husband Ramon Johnson of Rural Mason City, grandchildren Kenna, Kalli and Ben.
Bill Malone, son-in-law, of Holdrege.
Janice and husband Frank Nusbaum of Fort Worth, Texas, granddaughters, Abigail, Emily, Anna and Elyse.
And youngest, Don and wife Chris of Berwyn and grandchildren Cody and Michaela and James Bissonette.
He is also survived by his sister, Lois Conrin of Plattsmouth, Nebraka; brother Leland and wife Pat of rural Broken Bow; brother Leon and wife Mary of Cedar Falls, Iowa; sister Lea Ann Hughes of Walla Walla, Washington; and sister-in-law Wilma of Downers Grove, Illinois.
Darrell was preceded in death by his parents James and Hallie Nelson, his brother Vaughn, his daughter Lynae Nelson Malone, brother-in-law Pat Hughes and brother-in-law, Gene Conrin.