Chaplain Lars Edward Nelson

1914 — 2012

by Phil Johnson

North Park Professor Zenos Hawkinson introduced Ed Nelson and me on Spaulding Avenue, North Park College Campus, south of the North Branch of the Chicago River. Headed in the same direction, we fell into step. I knew immediately that Ed was special. I was delighted by his enthusiasm when the subject of Pietisten came up.

He wrote to us in 1989, “Thanks for your good work. Your courage for tackling important, if unpopular questions, is commendable. Keep it up!” We were well aware that Ed did not hesitate to tackle such matters himself.

Before he went to college and seminary, Ed learned to make bricks in Bessemer, Pennsylvania. He graduated from North Park Seminary in 1943. After serving several Covenant Churches, Ed entered the army as a Chaplain in 1952 beginning his service during the Korean War.

In an article “Pastoral Care in the Military Chaplaincy” (Pietisten, Winter 1991) Ed related several touching experiences of Pastoral Care, stories of people in the agony of war. He wrote that on his first day as a Chaplain, a 19-year-old came in. “He began speaking before I offered him a chair, literally opening up the flood gates of personal and family problems.”

Ed continues: “Then all of a sudden he looked up at me and through the tears that were welling up in his eyes, he said: ‘You are the first older person that I have had a chance to talk to who listened.’

“After he left, it was my turn to weep. In retrospect this incident was almost a God-send. It made me realize that I could never become a hot-shot counselor handing out easy solutions to complex problem. Every soldier, no matter what his problem, deserved a listening ear.”

Ed could listen and he could talk. He was a joy to visit at the Canterbury Inn retirement home in Longview, Washington, where he spent his later years. He lived immediately across the street from my sister, Adele, who loved to visit him, too.

We pray God’s blessing on the memory of Chaplain L. Edward Nelson, his wife, Florence, who preceded him, and to their family.

[Memorials are directed to Longview Early edition Rotary Foundation, Lower Columbia Young Life, or North Park University.]

— Gathered by Adele Stone and Phil Johnson