Richard J. Nelson
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Richard John Nelson Passed away 4/22, age 85. Preceded in death by 1st wife, Gloria. Survived by their children, Craig (Susie) & Dyan (Mark) and grandchildren, John and Colin ( Brittany ), Alexandra, Ryan.
Also survived by wife, Anne, and step-children, Sheryl (Bob), Regan (Conleth); grandsons Aaron (Tamara), Shea (Paige), Joe (Kate), Paul; great-granddaughter, Amelia. Retired Seattle ILWU Local 19.
To the Old Timer's In memory of my dad, Dick Nelson, who passed away April 22, 2015. It is said that "on your death bed, you're not going to be thinking about your job, you'll be thinking about your family."
In the case of my dad, Dick Nelson, aka Jr., his thoughts about his job, and specifically the people he worked with, was as important as family! As many will recall, my dad suffered from dementia for the last few years.
He and his wife, Anne, had moved from the Seattle area (Duvall) to Eagle, Idaho to be near Anne's son and his family. It was a tough move for dad as he came to grips with the fact the coffee and doughnuts tradition with the Old Timer's would be coming to an end. Not surprisingly, he relished trips back even for a single morning get-together.
For 30+ years dad was a proud member of the ILWU and never had a negative thing to say about it whether in his working days nor in his retirement. They don't make men like this anymore.
A few memories we have are of the smell of breakfast being cooked for him every morning by mom as he religiously rose at 5 o'clock in the morning so he could make the trek down to the hall with the hopes of working that day.
Years of hard work left him with arthritic knees, diminished hearing, and lifelong friendships. He rarely mentioned the physical maladies, but rather focused on the latter.
The years of getting the 5PM phone calls announcing, "I'm bringing the Irish guys home for dinner" and mom and I scrambling to prepare a feast for them.
This was when Seattle was a standard port of call for Irish Shipping, Ltd. Long after the relationship between the Port of Seattle and Irish Shipping waned, my parents continued relationships with many of the guys and their families and they would visit them when traveling to Ireland.
That's just how mom and dad were. Being a solid union family, I remember when grapes were not allowed in our house as the ILWU was in the midst of a sympathy strike for the grape pickers union in California. Again, that is how my parents were: sympathetic for those struggling. For years many ILWU members would donate things for my parents to take to their beloved Mazatlan ( Mexico ) and the communities, orphanages, and clinic there.
To this day, there is an operating room at the Margarita Maz Hospital with a plaque that bears my mom's name (Gloria) to honor her for her years of dedication to improving the hospital. Being the passionate scroungers that they were, many people benefited from the cache of goods they procured from the ILWU family.
Sadness would invade our home when he would come home with the news of a friend, and likely hunting or fishing partner, had passed away. Ray Willingham, Gale Bloomer, Atlee Pearcy, and perhaps most difficult for him, was the passing of his childhood friend, Gary LeBreche. I wanted to share with you all a little about our dad's final days and who he thought about and where his conversation led.
Despite his dementia, the family, my brother, myself, our spouses, and my children were incredibly blessed by a morning of complete clarity in thought and speech from dad. It was amazing!
Dad spoke of Seattle and wanting to return there. He made the blanket statement that " Seattle had interesting things to do." Translate this into coffee and doughnuts at the hall.
He recalled going to union meetings and talking with friends. When I mentioned Ray, Gale, Atlee, Gary, Bob (Swanson), Joe (Waldean), he smiled and nodded. When I asked, "Dad, did you love your work?" He quickly replied, "Well, yeah!" We continued strolling down the proverbial memory lane of his life in Seattle.
Him growing up just off 85th and Aurora, the house near the Woodland Park Zoo, and the "big house" in Broadview (where I grew up). Favorite restaurants and places to go.
And oh, the hunting and fishing trips! Most often with John Fern and his brother, Bob. reminded him how weird it was to have an elk carcass hanging in the garage and my friends always wanting to sneak in and peek at it, thinking surely I was a liar.
And when he would return home from the annual weeklong trip he would always have his hunting beard and tickle me with it with that welcome home hug. He had many fishing trips to Westport with Gale Bloomer. Upon his return I would watch him carefully prepare his smoked salmon from the trip's bounty. To this day, I have yet to find a smoked salmon as good as his was... warm and fresh out of the smoker.
Dad and mom loved to travel. Many of their trips were with people he worked with. They introduced many to their precious Mazatlan . Atlee and Bette Pearcy often went with them.
But Gary LeBreche left the biggest impression. Perhaps some will recall that Gary ended up having a partial amputation above his ankle after years of dealing with unsuccessful attempts to heal the literal hole in his leg after a fall on a cargo ship.
One trip, he and dad concocted the story of having Gary go into the ocean and then take off his prosthetic and yell, "Shark!" It was a story dad could not tell over the years without laughing hysterically recalling the entire scenario. What a pair they were! We recalled times when he was out on strike and how that meant lean times in our household.
Even these many years after he is without regret saying it strengthened the union and would make things better for those who would come after him.
He adored my sons, John and Colin, and I know he would have loved to have seen at least one of them continue on down at the Port. I am grateful that his love spilled out into their lives as well and he will indeed live on through them in the little things.
I wanted to share these things with you because all of you had a profound impact on my dad's life. He had a job he loved to go to each day. He was surrounded by people he loved being around at work and after work. Not many people can go through life saying that.
And so, it was no surprise to hear dad mentioning this part of his life on his literal death bed. Most assuredly, dad had a life well lived. It is my hope that you will remember him and speak of him often with the genuine, kind affection he had for you. With affection,