I found John Nelson, although I only knew him for a brief amount of time, to be an incredible man. Although this is an easy observation...I will verbally make it nonetheless. John, or as they called him Johnny (back in his day, as reported by Paul Finley), then Nellie (which he is known by now) was born with a condition called arthrogryposis. This condition left Nellie with a sever handicap of completely locked joints from the neck down. Nellie was unable to do anything, feed, dress, or clean himself without as
sistance. He used a thick plastic wand (which he placed in his mouth) to do minor daily tasks such as type or use his cell phone. Otherwise Nellie looked to friends and caretakers to help him live.
Again, I didn't know Nellie well, but here are bits and pieces of his story...as told by PLU football players and students from the past 21 years. Nellie was born in Singapore and through a series of life events, including his parents giving him up as an infant and retiring as his parents, to traveling to the states for extensive medical care, Nellie found a family. Through periods of depression, success and failure, Nellie ended up as a student at PLU in 1988 and over the past 21 years, went from a college student, to an unofficial teammate to the football team, a friend to many, an inspiration to crowds that stretch far beyond the terms, "football" or "PLU," a cheerleader, and a PLU football assistant coach. An amazing man who lived a total of 14 years beyond what medical professionals said he would, Nellie far surpassed his disability and in the words of Frosty, retired PLU football coach "God changed Nellie, and Nellie changed people."
Andy, being a friend of a great deal of football players at PLU was connected to Nellie (but then again how could you not be if you were ever a PLU student?) and introduced me to Nellie two years ago at the annual celebration (4th of July at The Steinruck Family's home) of another lost and cherished friend, Eric Fergen. Yesterday we attended Nellie's memorial service along with an estimated 800-900 others, each and every one of them with lives that were touched by this great man. Nellie, now in heaven is able to fulfill his dream of playing football. The day he passed, Nellie was able to walk up to the gates of heaven, himself, knock on the door (or ring the door bell...you choose) with his own hand (except I personally imagine him still using his wand...:) and hug Jesus...without assistance. What a blessing and an example Nellie's life was. Atta-way Nellie!