William Oren Nelson born November 11th Armistice Day 1931 died October 11th 2017.
Bill was born November 11th 1931 in a deer camp in the Adirondack Mountains outside of Old Forge, New York while his parents were on a hunting trip. He was the son of Frank Andrew Nelson and Fanny Jane Stocking. His mother's little sister, Grace Stocking Penlon was there at his birth. His cousin, Dr. Stuart Wheelock Nelson certified his live birth the next day on the 12th. He used the 12th as his birthday on all official documents. He was born premature and not expected to survive. His mother and Aunt Grace kept him in a shoebox until they could get back home to Western New York. Grace practically raised Billy and they developed a special bond that remained unbroken until her passing at 99 a few years ago.
As a child, he had an active imagination and a curiosity for learning fueled by his father's World War I combat stories and his mother's family history with Henry Augustus Ward, William F Cody, Aviatrix Blanche Scott and Aviator Glenn Curtiss. He had no use at all for Elementary school and would skip school for weeks at a time and go to the city libraries and museums and explore the woods and waters in the Rochester, New York area. Usually this landed him in a variety of homes for a while which as soon as he had a chance he would make his escape. His usual mode of transportation was by hitchhiking but he also had no problem hopping a train. The farthest he made it was Syracuse from Rochester when he was 8 years old.
When the Korean War broke out he was working at Marine headquarters in Washington D.C. and he immediately enlisted in the Navy following his older brother, John, into Naval Aviation ultimately serving his country on four continents always in and around his aircraft. His first station overseas was Morocco where he did flight service and supply and earning his seat time flying on patrols over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Next was Kingsville Naval Air Station, Kingsville, Texas. There he did supply, provided equipment instruction for flight Cadets, and more, flying in both fixed-wing and rotary. One day his landlord asked him to cut down a tree and as soon as he had cut it down a young lady named Bettye came out and complained that he had cut down the only shade tree around. Being a good sailor he took her out on a date. It wasn't long after that that they were engaged but unfortunately Uncle Sam had one more thing for him to do. He was sent to Vietnam for one year as a military advisor in the Navy Military Advisory and Assistance Group. MAAG, a part of the United States diplomatic mission. They did not wear military uniforms and they were all on diplomatic passports. When asked what he actually did in Vietnam his usual answer was "we were just there". He lived in Cholon and in the famous Metropole hotel in Saigon. He traveled all over Indochina. Saigon was in turmoil with refugees coming from North Vietnam and the French on the way out. On weekends, Bill would work with a couple different missionaries helping with the local churches and humanitarian groups and Montinard villages. Once his time was up in Vietnam it was back to the States and muster out of the military. But he never forgot how much he loved to fly. He at one time claimed that he had flown in over two dozen military aircraft.
Bill and Bettye were married on Texas Independence Day and they moved to Waco, Texas where Bill entered Baylor University to earn a teaching degree. Three boys soon followed Carl, Merrill, and Howard. Both Bill and Bettye taught school in Temple and Austin Texas. They retired from teaching in Austin. They were members of Congress Avenue Baptist Church, Waco, Texas, First Baptist Church, Temple, Texas, Crestview Baptist Church Austin, Texas and Hutto Baptist Church, Hutto, Texas. He was a Sunday school teacher and tithed to his church uninterrupted through the years. He coached the first wrestling team for Lanier High School in Austin. He was active in Boy Scouts and even served as a Precinct chair for one term in Austin.
Bill and Bettye loved to travel and dedicated their summers to camping around the country. By the late sixties they had camped in 37 States and Canada. They were happiest in and around Taos, New Mexico where Bettye could concentrate on her artwork, but all of the Rockies were their second home.
After their youngest son went off to the Air Force, Bill heard the calling of the military again and with the lukewarm approval from Bettye he walked into a Texas Army National Guard recruiting office and joined up at almost 50 years old. He became a helicopter armor, flight crew and crew chief. This got him back in the air again where he wanted to be. He was also a combat leader and a guest instructor for the OCS School. His favorite thing to do on the ground was being an opposition forces member. He got a lot of enjoyment out of just being twice the age of most of the candidates he was teaching and humpin around the woods with them all night. When he finally physically could not keep up with the younger men he hung up his flight helmet for the last time and went back to the Navy to finish out his career in the Navy Reserves. He served all over the Southern United States and Hawaii. Hawaii held a special place in his heart because his son, Howard, his brother, John, and his father, all served in the military in Hawaii.
In his later years, Bill and Bettye traveled the country visiting friends and family.
Until his passing, he stayed active walking a mile every morning at the Howard Lane Home Depot in Pflugerville, Texas visiting and drinking his coffee along the way. Being a morning fixture, he will be missed at The Home Depot. Four days a week he worked out at two different gyms. He suffered a stroke while on his morning walk at Home Depot and passed away 11 days later at the age of 85. His message to young people is never waste a minute. Seek out excellence in everything you do. You might not get it but good things will happen!
There are many words that can be used to describe Bill.
He was a loving and devoted husband and father to three boys, Carl, Merrill, and Howard. He accepted family friends Charles Dale Blackburn, Carlos Garcia Gonzalez, Russell Lynn Pavur, Denis Joe Bell and Fabian Rayon as his own.
He was an organ donor and always encouraged others to make that choice. In keeping with his wishes at his passing his body was donated.
He was an educator, leader, Sunday school teacher, missionary, warrior, peacekeeper, counselor, environmentalist, friend, World Traveler, Patriot and humble servant to his God and Country.
He is and will always be greatly missed by his friends and family.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Franklin Andrew and Fanny Jane Stocking Nelson and sister, Annabel Nelson Humphrey Cobb. He is survived by his older, brother John Owen Nelson of Rochester, New York, Carl John (Suzanne) Nelson, Merrill Fred Nelson and Virginia Caudle, Howard James Nelson, Theresa Marie (Patrick) Prindiville, Angelee (Andy) Schoentag, Jules Marie Prindiville, soon-to-be-born, baby Schoentag; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins in many states; and friend, Lynn Nordeen.