Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Obituary: Nelson Thomas Wetsel

Today would have been my grandfather, Nelson Wetsel's 94th birthday. We miss him every day. This is one of my favorite photos of him and me. It was taken after a church youth group play.  


Nelson and Helen Wetsel
Nelson Thomas Wetsel, 82, of 1491 Virginia Avenue in Harrisonburg, died on Friday, July 9, 2004, at Avante of Harrisonburg.

He was born April 20, 1922, in Harrisonburg, and was the son of the late Earl and Edna Thomas Wetsel. Nelson spent his childhood around his grandfather’s seed business, watching it grow from a small business and moving to larger locations. Ninety-three years ago, the business was started from the back of a wagon, which his grandfather and father brought from Port Republic to Harrisonburg on court house days.

Starting to work as a teenager, then college, military service and back to the business, Nelson did everything from sweeping, seed cleaning, inspecting fields, truck driving, sales person and on to office and money management. He served as president of Wetsel Seed from 1970 to 1990 and was on the Board of Directors and a stockholder.

Nelson T. Wetsel in South Pacific
Mr. Wetsel attended Strayer Business College in Washington, D.C. until World War II started. He served in the U.S. Army as a staff sergeant in the 40th Division of the 108th Regiment in the Intelligence Division and received a Bronze Star for "Above and Beyond the Call of Duty." He spent time on many islands in the Pacific including Luzon, Leyte and Guadacanal and was in Korea at the time of the peace treaty signing.

Nelson has twice been president of the Virginia Seedsmen’s Association, as his father before and followed by his brother, Bob, and his son, Tom. He served as board member of the American Seed Trade Association and was instrumental in taking Wetsel Seed from a small seed store to a multi-state distributor.

He was a 45-year member of the Fire Company No. 1 and, as president, helped organize the first rescue squad in Harrisonburg.

Mr. Wetsel also served as president and was a 55-year member of the Exchange Club, which helps raise funds for nurse’s scholarships and promotes an educational program in area schools for justice and liberty.

Also in the community, Nelson served as a director of the United Virginia Bank, Rocking R Hardware, treasurer of the Harrisonburg Parking Authority and trustee at Bridgewater College.

A lifelong member of the First Church of the Brethren, where his maternal grandfather was the first minister, he served as chairman of the Church Board, Sunday school superintendent, helped organize and was president several times of the Friendship Sunday School Class, usher, head usher, deacon, chairman of deacons and served on other committees of the church.

In giving so much during his working life, after retirement, he and his wife, Helen, enjoyed going on cruises.

Nelson T Wetsel and Helen M Moore Sept. 5, 1947.
On Sept. 5, 1947, he married Helen Moore, who survives.

Also surviving are three sons, Thomas M. Wetsel and wife, Sandy, of Timberville, Va., Jeffrey N. Wetsel and wife, Malinda, of Midlothian, Va., and Donald E. Wetsel and wife, Susanna, of Fairfield, Va.; one brother, Robert E. "Bob" Wetsel of Harrisonburg; six grandchildren, Denise M. Ablard, Lorne N. Wetsel, Tamela M. Dove, Peter H. Wetsel, Whitney E. Wetsel and Matthew E. Wetsel, and four great-grandchildren, Earl L. Wetsel, Christopher Wetsel, Destiny Dove and Elena Ablard.

Memorial services will be conducted 7 p.m. Monday at the First Church of the Brethren, 315 South Dogwood Drive in Harrisonburg by the Rev. Ronald E. Wyrick. The family will receive friends following the service.

Private burial will be in Rest Haven Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to the Bridgewater College General Fund, Bridgewater, Va. 22812.

Arrangements by the Kyger Funeral Home in Harrisonburg.

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