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Columbia Missourian

Helen Nelson put the Lord, family before herself

By Megan LaManna
June 6, 2012 | 3:59 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The first words out of Kimberly Nelson’s mouth about her mother, Helen Marie (Kurch) Nelson, were, “she loved the Lord.”

Mrs. Nelson died Sunday, June 3, 2012. She was 88 years old.

Mrs. Nelson was born on May 19, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Wasyl and Mary Kurch. She had two sisters, Anne (Kurch) Kosickey and Esther (Kurch) Szyough. In high school, she met her husband, Stuart L. Nelson Sr.

“My mom kind of had eyes for my dad first,” Kimberly Nelson said.

The couple married on Dec. 16, 1943. They had two children, Kimberly Nelson and Stuart Nelson Jr.

Mrs. Nelson treasured her family. Kimberly Nelson said one of the things her mother was most proud of was her son's position as the chief veterinarian for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

“She was a great mom, very supportive of anything my brother and I did,” said Kimberly Nelson. “She always put us first, but sometimes I wish she would have taken care of herself more.”

The Nelson family loved to travel, Kimberly Nelson said. She said anyone who knew them knew they owned a Bambi Airstream trailer and that they used it to explore the country. Kimberly Nelson has fond memories of one trip in which she and her family traveled to Alaska and drove the Alaska Highway up to Fairbanks. Mrs. Nelson saw each of the 50 states, Kimberly Nelson said.

Mrs. Nelson and her husband were also active members of The Gideons International group, which tells people about God's love, hands out testaments and gives people Bibles. 

From 1959 to 1962, Mrs. Nelson and her family lived near Orlando, Fla., where Stuart Nelson Sr. worked in veterinary medicine. Kimberly Nelson recalled that Mrs. Nelson often commented on the marshlands in the area.

"She would say, 'Ew, who would want to buy this land? It's all swamp!'" Kimberly Nelson said. Little did they know that Walt Disney would soon buy that land for his amusement park. 

After a few years, Stuart Nelson Sr. was fed up with the Florida heat and relocated with his family to Columbia, where he was hired in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine's clinical pathology laboratory.

Living in Columbia, Mrs. Nelson watched the city grow. The family lived on Scott Boulevard. When they moved there, there was nothing around, Kimberly Nelson said. Now there is a four-lane road. Mrs. Nelson was a resident of Columbia for more than 50 years.

Mrs. Nelson is survived by her son and daughter, as well as several nieces and cousins.

Her sisters and husband died earlier.

Visitation will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Evangelical Free Church, 600 Silvey St. Services will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday at the church.

Memorial donations may be made to Gideons International, 1008 Hardin St., Columbia, MO 65203.

Tributes can be posted at

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor.