Norman L. Nelson - 2023 - Plumer-Gobber Funeral Home (2024)

Norman L. Nelson died peacefully at his home in Norton, Kansas, at the age of 85 on April 8th, 2023. He was tended by his exceptional caregiver of eight years, Magda Dolatshahi of Great Bend.

Norman was born October 29, 1937, to Stanley Swan Nelson and Leila Mae (Scholl) Nelson, Long Island, Kansas. His was a home birth, delivered by well-known Dr. Herbert S. Bennie (“Dr. Bennie”) of Almena, Kansas, at the Nelson family house near land homesteaded in 1878 by Norman’s first-generation Swedish immigrant great-grandparents, Swan and Nellie Nelson. Norman’s primary residence remained within 21 miles of his birthplace for his entire lifetime and yet his life reached far.

Norman attended Willowdale one-room country school, moving to Almena Grade School as a third grader and graduating from Almena Rural High School in 1956. In high school, he was an officer in Future Farmers of America (FFA) and played football. Norman attended one semester at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, before returning home to Long Island to farm with his father at Nelson & Son Farm.

On Easter Sunday, April 21, 1957, Norman married Gloria Ann Van Patten, Almena, Kansas, daughter of Loren and Mildred Van Patten of Almena. Norman and Gloria’s first home was a tiny one, a mile west of his parents’ home outside of Long Island, Kansas. They had four children: Sally, Terry, Troy and Lisa. They were married for almost 66 years.

With a philosophy of dogged hard work, calculated risk-taking, business diversification and service, Norman, his father, his sons and their families built a business, over Norman’s adult lifetime, from approximately 500 acres and a few livestock to a multi-faceted agriculturally-based business that serves the family and counties throughout western Kansas and southwestern Nebraska with associations that reach much farther.

The family was early in recognizing the necessity of legal incorporation, creating Nelson Farms, Inc., and gradually diversifying into multiple entities including crop production, grain storage, fertilizer and chemicals, livestock production, feed processing, banking, and energy. Norman was innovative and quietly instrumental in changing the marketing system for beef to encourage a premium product which resulted in industry-wide progress.

In 1990, First State Bank of Norton was purchased with a focus on agriculture customers. Locations in Hill City, Hoxie, Plainville, KS and Holdrege, NE, would follow. A farmer buying a bank was an innovation in itself, at the time, and was accomplished with much skill and determination.

Norman served on the boards of Rural Electric Association, Almena Irrigation District and served as a Norton County Commissioner. He was a member of the Free Masons and Shriners.

In 1995, Norman was involved in a chance business investment that converted condominiums in Titusville, FL, overlooking the Indian River and Cape Canaveral. On an investigative trip, he purchased two units for personal investment that inadvertently became the inspiration for 20+ years of winters in Florida where he and Gloria developed many lasting friendships and entertained leagues of their children, grandchildren, and other guests for fun in the sun. Soon, Norman bought a small citrus grove based on the premise that he liked fresh-squeezed orange juice and noticed that it was scarce in Florida, ironically.

In his later years, Norman purchased ranches in WaKeeney, KS, Paradise, KS, and, most recently, the Pyramid Ranch in Gove County, KS, which includes Monument Rock.

Also in their later years, Norman and Gloria began to focus more on making a lasting impact on the future of Norton, Kansas. They loved and believed in Norton and invested accordingly. They spearheaded the renovation of the historic Lyon House and Heaton Building and facilitated the construction of the award-winning Sleep Inn Hotel, all in Norton. They were fundamental to the establishment of the Norton County Community Foundation. Norman could be a tough negotiator, but he was silently generous. There are innumerable times that he funded projects and emergency needs, large and small, in and around the community, the details of which few people will ever know.

Norman adored playing cards, from his teen years until the day the pandemic closed the doors of the Norton Senior Citizen Center (he played cards on iPad, alone, for a while afterward). He also loved fishing; western movies, music, and books; playing the stock market and commodities markets; growing vegetables and oranges; his nickname “Stormin’ Norman”; watching old westerns and sleeping in his easy chair; and, he was wild about his grandchildren, dancing the chicken dance with them among other endearing antics. He knew all his great children by personality even after he could no longer remember them by name.

Norman Nelson was a “bigger than life” person and will be greatly missed by many.

Norman was preceded in death by his parents; a brother-in-law Jim Vander Lugt and dear friends that include Floyd Fairleigh of Fairleigh Feed Yards, Scott City; Wayne Schnuerle of Almena; Don Stutterheim, Bob Yeager and Bill Sharp of Norton; Ben Boell of Holdrege; Everett McKenna of Palco and Bernard Griffiths of Long Island. He is survived by his wife Gloria, who lives with their youngest daughter, Lisa, two sisters, Lolita Jean Coupe (Dick) - Dallas, Texas, and Nathalee Rae VanderLugt - Edgerton, Minnesota. Their children Sally Nelson - Fairway, KS; N. Terry Nelson (Marcia) - Almena, KS; Troy Nelson (Denise) – Lewis, KS; Lisa Brooksher (Bruce) – Paradise, KS/Titusville, FL; grandchildren: Clarke Nelson (Julia); Stanton Nelson; Kayla Burr (Dustin); Kamille Whited; James (JT) Whited; Bo Nelson (Erica); Carson Brooksher; 11 great grandchildren; sister-in-law Judith Jocelyn and brother-in-law David Lee Van Patten (Mary Jane Burbach); five nieces, five nephews, and many great friends.

A Celebration of Life for Norman Nelson is to be held April 22 at 11 am, Terry and Marcia Nelson’s home, 25998 State Hwy 383, Almena, KS. Dinner and fun to follow; anyone who would like to attend is welcome. Memorial contributions are appreciated to: Norton County Community Foundation, 112 S. Kansas, Suite 308, Norton, Kansas 67654 (nortonccf.org). Arrangements by: Plumer-Gobber Funeral Home, 215 W. Main St., Norton, KS. Condolences may be left at www.plumergobber.com

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Norman L. Nelson - 2023 - Plumer-Gobber Funeral Home (2024)
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