March 10, 2023 at 12:24 p.m.
Leo was born on February 24, 1935 to Elliot and Esther (nee Abraham) Nelson and big brother Donald in a small cabin on South Lindstrom Lake. He attended school in Lindstrom until second grade, when the family moved to rural Shafer. Leo continued elementary school in Taylors Falls, where he and his wife of 65 years, Carol Bonderson Nelson, first met. They both graduated from Taylors Falls High School in 1953.
During high school, Leo was active in sports, class leadership, FFA, and he played the tuba in the Taylors Falls High School Band. He was an all-conference quarterback for the football team and played basketball, baseball, and ran track. He graduated as class valedictorian with the stated ambition of “raising chickens and kids.”
Leo was encouraged by a couple local physicians to consider going into medicine. He attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, majoring in Chemistry and Pre-Medicine. He was admitted to the University of Minnesota Medical School and graduated in 1961. He was a much beloved family physician at the St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin clinic and hospital for over 35 years. He cared for his patients as if they were family, making many house calls and home visits.
Five days after college graduation, Leo married the love of his life, Carol, at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Taylors Falls where they have remained lifetime members. Together Leo and Carol raised four children; Rebecca, Sarah, Timothy, and Rachel, fulfilling his ambition of raising kids. They lived on a farm in Taylors Falls where Leo fulfilled his other ambition of raising chickens! He went above and beyond by also raising beef cattle, as well as hay, corn, and oats. In addition, Leo and Carol hosted numerous foreign exchange students and foster children over the years.
In 1966, Leo was drafted into the Army when doctors were needed in the Vietnam war. Leo, Carol, and their four children spent one year at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia. Leo spent another year in Pleiku, Vietnam, as a Battalion Surgeon, and was honorably discharged and returned home in April 1968.
Leo retired from the practice of medicine in 1997. In retirement, Leo and Carol spent 26 winters in Mesa, Arizona making many wonderful new friends and providing a new environment for Leo to learn about the plants of the desert. He served on and led the Grounds Committee and could identify every plant and tree on the grounds.
Leo thought of himself as a forester, enlisting his children in planting thousands of trees around the farm in Taylors Falls. He also spent some of his time in Vietnam reforesting the base where he was stationed with banana trees and other local plants. He continued his environmental conservation efforts in Arizona by helping their homeowners association adopt more sustainable desert landscaping.
He instilled a love for the outdoors and working the land in his children and grandchildren through camping trips in the Rocky Mountains, the BWCA, and throughout the United States. He taught them to “leave a place better than we found it.” Carol and all of his children are avid gardeners.
Leo made service to his community a large part of his life. He served on the school board, church council, was a member of the Civilian Emergency Response Team, and was an active member of the Taylors Falls Lions Club.
Leo was preceded in death by his parents and brother, and grandson Austin James Barrett. He is survived by his wife, Carol; four children: Rebecca (John) Hulden, Sarah (Joe Ehlers) Nelson, Timothy (Sheri) Nelson, and Rachel (Broderick) Barrett; grandchildren: Maren (John Albanese) Hulden, Timothy John Nelson, Carl (Vincent DiPeri) Hulden, Britta (Michael Martin) Hulden, Jens Hulden, Jediah (Brea Verhagen) Barrett, Mariah (John Sansing) Barrett, Gabriel Ehlers-Nelson, and Claire Ehlers-Nelson: and great-grandchildren: August, Julian, and Greta Hulden Albanese, and Aurora Jo Barrett with one more on the way.
A visitation will be held at Grandstrand Funeral Home in Lindstrom, Minnesota on Monday, March 13, 2023 from 5-8 pm, and a funeral service will be at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Taylors Falls, Minnesota on Tuesday, March 14 at 11 am with visitation one hour before. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Taylors Falls, the American Cancer Society, or a cause of your choice. Condolences may be expressed online at www.grandstrandfh.com