About the time you read this, hundreds will be assembling to pay tribute to the life of longtime Springfield dentist and friend to all, Dr. Donald Nelson.
Many local folks know Dr. Don as the kind, gentle man with a sense of humor who spent time with them and got to know them personally when they say in his dental chair. I knew Dr. Don as a man who was faithful, fearless, and the one person who actually had more Auburn University paraphernalia than I do.
Dr. Don was a man any pastor would be proud of. He was determined to never let circumstances get him down. He was resolute in his optimism, even when he underwent a brutal back surgery. Though the doctors thought he might never walk again, Dr. Don persevered. He was walking without assistance in no time.
Years earlier, when his wife Louise was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and was limited in her ability to be active, Dr. Don was undaunted. He took Louise traveling everywhere, and he took take care of the details. Nothing was ever going to stop Dr. Don.
But it was his thoughtfulness and kindness that people will remember the most. Even in the past few months, nothing would keep Dr. Don from what he thought he should do. When my mother-in-law, Janet Sutherland, passed away at the end of October, Dr. Don asked me to stop by. I thought perhaps he just wanted to talk. No. Despite his difficulty walking and driving, he spent hours driving around to find the biggest ham he could carry, just to make sure we had enough food when family came over. And, of course, that was to be accompanied by his famous pickles, which are always jarred with his good friend Butch Kieffer.
Dr. Donald Nelson was his own man. And he lived by his rules. The blessing for all of those who were privileged to know him is that those rules were God’s rules. When the church was challenged years ago to accept ideas that were unbiblical, Dr. Don spoke up when others remained silent. Fearless, resolute, but always kind and thoughtful, Dr. Don was simply a good man.
It is widely believed in the worldwide church that it is a blessing to pass away at Christmas time. I do not know if that is true or not, but what I do know is that thousands of local folks have been blessed to have known Dr. Don, and they will all miss him.
So, goodbye to Effingham’s hometown dentist. He lives on in his two sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. But more than anything, he lives on in the hearts of all he served.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.