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Community Spotlight Featuring Kenny Nelson

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By Lynnaea Barney

Kenneth Waldemar Nelson, born on August 21, 1927, is the youngest of eleven children, a loving husband, an amazing grandfather and a caring great-grandfather. Kenny’s middle name is after the ship, The Waldemar, which his grandparents sailed on from Denmark to America. Throughout his lifetime, Kenny has witnessed Morgan change and lots of growth. He has seen businesses boom and then fade in Morgan County.  Through all the years, he states that family and love are most important.

Kenny remembers when the street he lives on had only nine houses and was a dirt road! That road, Morgan Valley Drive, now has about sixty houses and is a nice paved road. The house he and his wife live in is a historic building in the county. That house was built in 1814. His parents raised their children in that house and lived there till they passed away and then Kenny and his wife raised their children in that home.

Kenny states in his youth Como Hot Springs was a happening place for entertainment.  He and his wife went skating, dancing, bowling, and swimming at Como Hot Springs. It also had a restaurant/bar that had a sign stating, “Duck in and wobble out”. There were also many more businesses in the county- one of which was a sour kraut factory.  Kenny worked there for a while.  He explained that there was a big machine that shredded the cabbage and dropped it into a big vat.  Someone wearing boots, would climb into the vat and spread and stomp the cabbage down.  When it was full, wood slats would cover the top and 100-pound weights would hold it in while it fermented.  When it was done, the kraut would be canned and shipped off to be sold.

Kenny went to school for two years in a public school that use to be where the Milton church building now stands. He then went to Morgan High School in Morgan. It was then that Kenny’s life changed very much. World War Two started during his freshman year and two of his brothers were drafted. Neither returned home. First Lt. Noris Andrew Nelson was killed in the air over Bougainville, in the Solomon Islands. His body was never recovered. Sgt. Henry Burton Nelson was killed in action at Lemy, France by mortar. They were two of the eighteen boys from Morgan County that never stepped foot at home again.

Kenny enjoyed playing basketball in high school and later used that love to run the Milton basketball tournament.  He was proud of the tournament and all the years he helped with it, because he said that not only did it raise money for community, it also brought people together.  Even if they were mad at each other during the game, they would talk and shake hands and enjoy watching the other games after their game. The tournament ran for 17 years and had 80 people playing at times.

Kenny graduated from Morgan High in 1945. He worked at several jobs including a pea farm, kraut factory but much of his time was at the Devil’s Slide Cement Plant for 32 years.  From 1979 to 1982, Kenny served as the county commissioner. He had the Milton cemetery mess dumped on his lap, so he spent a lot of time working on cleaning that up. By mess, he explained the county and Milton resident were at odds as to who the cemetery maintenance belonged to. He had to maintain the cemetery records and he hired some lawn mowers to keep the grass trimmed and got the road in better condition.

Kenny played the bass guitar in a band.  They played at the Spring Chicken Inn and churches and community functions as well as at the cemetery for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  He said he loved playing in the band, but you had to know a lot of music to be able to play for 3 hours, unless he said they were drunk and one chord would be fine!

In all his years, Kenny has learned that gratitude is important and to look for the good in everything. There’s no use to be negative. Nothing will ever turn out good for you. Life is hard and if you’re looking down, it’s only going to be harder. You got to keep your head up and put a smile on your face. He’s also learned that if you treat people good, they’ll treat you good back. Sure enough, you’re not going to like everyone but there’s no reason to be rude and ignorant to them. Do your best to be nice to people.

In 1950, Kenny married a girl named Lucille Kippin. They were happily married with one child and another on the way when Lucille died in 1956. It was a heartbreaking time for Kenny. He had a son that was almost two years old to watch over and he had absolutely no idea what he was supposed to do. Kenny says that he had climbed a hill one day after Lucille’s death. He was standing at the top of the hill, feeling sorry for himself when he thought, “What do you do? I got to get going with my life.” This was a defining moment for him. Life gets hard and sometimes all you can do is stick with it. When Kenny met a sweet, beautiful girl named Neeta Kippin, he said that she had to pick up the pieces of his broken heart. They were married on May 4, 1963 and will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary this May. One of Kenny’s fondest memories is Neeta telling him she loved him. They have six children, nineteen grandchildren and almost ten great grandchildren. Sometimes, life doesn’t always happen as you would expect, but what does happen is meant to happen and you must go with the flow. It’ll always create something beautiful if you’re doing your best to make it work.

One of Kenny’s granddaughters wrote a poem that says:

90 years

32,872 days

788,928 hours

335,680 minutes

2 loving wives

6 amazing children

19 beautiful grandchildren

9 sweet great grandchildren

1 blessed life

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