By Chad Givson and Murray Crawford Meridian Booster
Ray Nelson – father, grandfather, businessman and community builder – will be remembered for his heart in more ways than one.
Nelson passed away last Monday morning at the age of 90 in his Lloydminster home surrounded by his family.
The founder of Nelson Lumber, now Nelson Group, was well-known in the community for his business contribution, as well as charitable donations over the years. He was also well-known worldwide as the oldest living person to receive a heart transplant at the age of 79.
"What we can all hope for is that we live a life as full as Mr. Nelson led," said Mayor Jeff Mulligan. "His biggest legacy will be his philanthropic nature, his gift of giving.
"He was a man of great vision and had tremendous strength of character. He had this overwhelming will to excel and saw how to do instead of how not to do."
Mulligan said he thinks Nelson single-handedly put Lloydminster on the business and political map.
In 2006, 44 Avenue was officially renamed Ray Nelson Drive in his honor and to further show appreciation for his work, the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce gave Nelson the first annual Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998.
Apart from giving generously to donations such as the SPCA and Interval Home, Nelson brought the Edmonton Symphony to the Border City each year. Within the community, Nelson played a role with the Lloydminster Municipal Hospital Board, the Lloydminster and District Agricultural Exhibition Association and the Lloydminster Foundation.
While Nelson was a friend to many in the community, he was also close with the Fisher family. Sam Fisher, whose father was very close to Nelson, knew him for 46 years.
"One of the interesting things about Ray is he was very prominent in the public life, but the majority of what he did was in the private life," said Fisher. "The level of contributions to the community and helping out other people he was very quiet about. He has a legacy that will go largely untold. It wasn't his way to tell it."
But Nelson was also a behind-the-scenes contributor to the community.
"A lot of his legacy is public and that was hard to avoid," said Fisher. "But I think the majority of his legacy is very private and will always be that way, which is to me a test to the humility of it all."
Fisher and Nelson would travel together and go on fishing trips to the lake, and up until Nelson's death they would still meet for a coffee.
"He certainly was a man of faith," said Fisher.
"He was the type of man that if you went for a car drive with him to go fishing, he'd stop and have a prayer for safety before you go on the road."
A service for Ray Nelson will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 11 a.m. at the Stockade Convention Centre in the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds.
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