Obituary of William Alan Nelson
William Alan Nelson was known for his fearless sincerity & insatiable curiosity. “Bill’s” wide gamut of interests & pursuits ended only where they encountered pretense, negativity or cruelty. He engaged the world with unmatched presence & unparalleled tenderness. He was only inconsiderate of what others thought of him. None had to guess where Bill stood; unappreciative folks nonetheless respected his intrepid honesty.
Born February 27, 1942, to Maxine Ploch (born 1920) & William E. Nelson (born 1905), Bill grew up above the family corner grocery. Nelson’s Market adjoined GM’s Fisher #1 plant in his birthplace Flint, Michigan.
Young Bill was dear to his grandparents Zeke & Gladys Brewer who lived nearby in Fenton, Michigan. Zeke’s know-how forged by farm-life sparked Bill’s interest in engineering. Bill brought these skills to the corner market, fixing beer coolers, lights, cars & anything needing attention. His path to higher education was paved by a keen interest in ham radio, electronic kit building & an aptitude for STEM subjects in school.
Bill began studies in electrical engineering at University of Michigan in 1960. The same year, he met Bette Slavko, an occupational therapy student at nearby Eastern Michigan University. They shared enthusiasm for JFK’s campaign & the importance of having the right tool for the task at hand. They were married May 1, 1965 in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
Upon attainment of his master’s degree 1966, Bill & Bette moved to California. Bill started his engineering career at General Dynamics & put down roots in a neighborhood among Pomona Valley orange groves. Soon Bill & Bette had two children, W.T. & Rebecca.
During the 1970’s, Bill & Bette resolved to build a home in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Ever hands-on, Bill took a few architectural drafting courses & ultimately collaborated with his instructor on the design. As owner/builder, Bill personally undertook wiring with his pal & fellow engineer Phil Rowekamp. Completed seven months from groundbreaking, the hillside structure of redwood & river rock sheltered the family with views of the valley.
Although a fleet of (primarily) second hand vehicular oddities were the primary projects in that time & space, Bill’s most important & enduring life projects weren’t contained by any era or workshop to come: music, genealogy, bawdy humor, crossword puzzles, root beer floats, politics, fine dining, canine dogs, chili dogs, being of service to others & above all else, family.
Bill concluded a 30 year career on the RIM-66 Surface to Air Missile program as Production Manager in 1997. With children grown & after decades of vacations in the area—be they scented with hi-test exhaust or vernal redwood breezes—Bill & Bette relocated to the central coast where Bill became a well-loved & valued part of the close-knit Big Sur community.
Generous & humble, Bill was boisterous & quick to laugh. He changed lives with his open heart & is immortal in our own. Bill passed away on the unusually warm and wonderful day of January 16th 2021 amidst giant coastal redwoods, ferns, ladybugs & family.
Bill is survived by wife Bette, son W.T. with his wife Kiyomi Sanada, daughter Rebecca Murman with her husband Derek, beloved grandchildren Noah Alexander Murman, Maya Talia Murman & MacInnes Makoto William Nelson as well as the children, grandchildren & great-grandchildren of his sister Janet Wallace (née Nelson).
We long to celebrate Bill’s life with our friends & family directly, just as soon as none need hesitate to do so. Profound gratitude to Donna George, Dr. Galloway & Heartland Hospice. Memorial contributions may be sent to the Big Sur Health Center or the donor’s favorite charity.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of William Nelson, please visit Tribute Store