Denver Nelson died peacefully on February 28, 2021 after suffering a stroke.
Denver was born in Spencer, Iowa, in October 1941, to Harold and Loramae Nelson. He left Spencer at age 17 and attended the University of Iowa. He completed his undergraduate, medical and six-year neurosurgery degree from Stanford University. Before he began his residency, he left Stanford for 2 years and served with the US Air Force as a flight surgeon in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star.
He met and married Judy, who was a nurse in the Stanford ICU. After his residency, he took his first job as a neurosurgeon in Anchorage, Alaska. A year later, in 1977, he moved to Eureka, where he worked as a neurosurgeon until he retired in 2002.
He was a man with many hobbies and interests. He loved cars and motorcycles, worked on engines, flew drones, small planes and helicopters, and drove jet boats on rivers in California, Oregon and Idaho. He was a woodworker, a pilot (he once owned a bonanza), enjoyed air shows and climbed Mount Rainier in 1969. He owned timber trucks and timber lots.
He loved exploring national parks, America’s back roads, and especially his annual trips to Iowa to look for corn and soybeans.
Over the years he has been involved in many different organizations: the Humboldt-Del Norte Medical Society, the Ingomar Club (he enjoyed teaching there), the Humboldt County’s Planning Commission, the Historical Society, the Buckeye Conservancy, the Air Quality Advisory Board of the North Shore, the Humboldt County Fish and Game Commission, Salt River Watershed Council, Redwood Park Conservancy, Mobile Medical Clinic, and Humboldt County Farm Bureau.
He was a volunteer in Redwood National and State Park for 18 years and an election worker in Humboldt County for 4 years.
Denver had friends from all walks of life. If you were a friend from Denver you knew it. If you weren’t a friend of Denver, you probably knew that too. He had an opinion and was always available for debate. If he felt strong enough about a subject, you would probably read it in one of his opinion pieces on “My Word”. He always had an inappropriate joke to share. He was a man of few words, but the words he spoke were meaningful and made sense. He was an extremely loyal friend and will be missed by many.
He leaves Judy, his 50-year-old wife, daughter Kristina Radelfinger, son-in-law Shane, grandson Kyler, granddaughter Sienna and his beloved yellow laboratory Viking.
Special thanks go to the nurses and staff at St. Joseph Hospital, Dr. Tom Rydz and Dr. Lei Han.
There will be no services.
Instead of flowers, consider making a donation to one of your favorite charities or to the
Scholarship fund for future doctors from the Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society
c / o Humboldt Area Foundation
363 Indianola Road
Bayside, CA 95524
I think he would appreciate it if we ended with his favorite quote from his favorite hero Theodore Roosevelt:
“It’s not the critic that counts; not the man pointing out how the strong man stumbles or where the perpetrator could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena and whose face is clouded through dust and sweat and blood, who strives bravely, who errs, who always comes up short, because there is no effort without faults and defects, but who actually strives to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions ; who pretends to be a worthy cause, who in the end knows at best the triumph of high performance and who in the worst case, if he fails, at least fails, while he dares very much so that his place will never be with those who are cold and shy souls who know neither victory nor defeat are cold. “
Published in Times-Standard on March 7, 2021.