Dean Nelson 1926 – 2019

ONIDA, SD – Dean Andrew Nelson, (93), son of Elva (Hyde) and George Nelson passed away on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. Services will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Onida, South Dakota on Sunday, May 19, 2019 at 1:00pm, with interment at the Onida Cemetery immediately following.

Ninety three years ago, on a cold January day, Elva was driven to Onida in a team and wagon sled with George’s brother, Charlie, at the helm. Charlie drove the team through the fields in order to get Elva to the Onida hospital in time for Dean’s birth. Doctor B.M. Hart delivered Dean Andrew Nelson on January 27, 1926. Dean’s aunt and uncle, Emma and B.M. Lister, lived next door to the hospital and that’s where George stayed after Dean was first born.

One of Dean’s favorite stories took place in 1932 when he was just six years old. Anyone that knows Dean will attest to the fact that he was a rambunctious little boy who made up his own rules. Well, Dean had a pony and would ride it with just a bridle and reins. One day he was on the east side of the road and wanted to sneak up behind his uncle Luther, who was on the west side of the road, and surprise him. As Dean and the pony were jumping the ditch to get to the other side of the road, the pony stumbled and fell, landing on Dean, breaking his leg. Needless to say, Luther was surprised, but not for the reason Dean originally had in mind.

Dean grew up on the Nelson family farm in Sully County and attended Blaine School for 7 years rather than 8 because he skipped the 2nd grade. Dean graduated from Onida High School in 1943 and was “damn glad to get out” (his words exactly). He had to promise to marry the geometry teacher in order to get a half credit to graduate. Dean played center on the basketball team throughout his high school years and was also the quarterback for the Warriors.

During the winter of 1943 school year, Dean lived in town with the Art Owens family. This was during WWII and everyone was encouraged to conserve gasoline. So rather than drive to town every day for school, Dean stayed with the Owens’. At the time, John Owens was about six years old and would jump on Dean’s bed each morning to wake him up. Once Art caught wind of that, he promptly put a stop to it.

Dean started farming at a very early age, driving tractors on steel wheels when he could hardly reach the pedals. During the summer, he would drive a Model A truck when they were haying the fields. His job was to back the truck up to the stacker when he was just eight years old. Besides harvesting grain, the farm also had cattle, sheep and hogs. The sheep shearing men taught Dean how to castrate lambs with his teeth. A fact he was oddly proud of.

When Dean was in his early teens, he bought a white Shetland pony from Chuck Hoover and named him Chet. That pony had a mind of his own as witnessed during the Sully County Fair one summer. Dean had entered Chet in a horse race, but just before the start of the race, Dean thought it would be wise to feed the pony oats so he would have energy to run faster. Well, half way through the race, Dean couldn’t control Chet, who was still hungry and wanted more oats. Chet ran off the track, making his way back to the barns for the rest of his oats while Dean was still in the saddle. The judges stopped the race while Chuck Hoover retrieved Chet. Chuck was the new jockey and the race started again….this time Chuck and Chet won the race! The oats worked!

In the summer of 1944, Dean took his first trip to Las Vegas with his cousin, Stewart Hyde. Before departing, George gave Dean a silver dollar and told him to put it on 32 black at the roulette wheel. Upon arriving in Las Vegas, Dean did as his father instructed and won! He let it ride and promptly won again, this time a whopping $1,300! Dean was only 18 at the time so his cousin had to accept the winnings, since Dean was too young to even be in the casino. They immediately wired the money to his father. For Dean, that was the beginning of a lifelong appreciation for Las Vegas and all that it had to offer. Over the next 70 years, Dean would visit often and eventually winter and retire to Las Vegas.

Right out of high school, Dean became a member of the Rationing Board, which was located in the Sully County Court House. In his role, Dean, and the rest of the board, would determine how many ration books families received for commodities (food, gas, etc.) based on family size.

Dean was a well-respected 3rd generation farmer in Sully County, taking over the family farm, which was Homesteaded in 1883. He successfully raised beef cattle, sheep, wheat, corn, hay, sunflower, oats, and millet throughout his career and was recognized as a Century Farm in 2008.

Throughout his entire life, Dean was best friends with Matt Glanzer. Matt worked on the Nelson Farm for over 60 years and was adored and loved by everyone. Matt was like a grandfather to Dean’s children, attending their weddings, graduations, and sporting events and visiting their families regularly.

Dean married Harriet Adams (Gettysburg) in 1946 and had seven children; Georgia, Scott, Lamar, Deborah, Matthew, Angela, and Carol. Scott and Lamar both passed away shortly after birth. Matthew was lost in a farming accident in 1962 and will be forever missed.

Dean was an active member of the South Dakota Flying Farmers Association for many years. He learned to fly from Cecil Ice in Pierre. Dean flew all over the United States and Canada in a 4-seater Piper Comanche 250. At one point during his flying days, Dean transported corpses from many points of the United States back to Pierre for burial.

In 1970, Dean traveled around the world, stopping in Japan, Spain, Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt, and Italy.

In 1978, Dean married Elizabeth (Liza) Byblow (Vancouver, B.C.). They traveled together all over the United States and Europe. One of their favorite vacation places was Jamaica. They retired to Las Vegas in 2012.

Dean was a fantastic storyteller, graceful dancer, and brilliant businessman with a quick wit and a perennial twinkle in his eye. He always had a warm handshake for everyone he encountered and he never met a bowl of ice cream he didn’t like. Life with Dean was always an adventure and he will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and acquaintances.

Dean is predeceased by his parents, Elva and George Nelson; Liza Nelson; Harriet Nelson; his sons Matthew, Scott, and Lamar Nelson; his sisters Marcia Lamb, Patricia Smith and Benni Bee Severson; his infant granddaughter Lily Bouchie; and his dear friend Matt Glanzer. Dean is survived by his daughters Georgia Hanson (Phil) of Sioux Falls, Debby Bouchie (Crayton) of Pierre, Angela Nix of Houston, TX and Carol Nelson (Jay Arent) of Peterborough, NH. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren – Andrea Thompson (David Gillian), Peter Thompson, Lindy Bouchie Geraets (Matt), Heather Bouchie, Logan Bouchie, Ryan Nix, Ashley Nix, and four great grandchildren – Hunter Thompson, Jackson Thompson, Daizy Bouchie and Diesel Bouchie.

Donations in Dean’s name may be made to the Onida Swimming Pool, the Onida Volunteer Fire Department, or the American Cancer Society.

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