Robert Naylor NelsonSeptember 1, 1928 ~ October 9, 2017 (age 89)
Robert Naylor Nelson died at home in Draper, Utah on Monday, October 9, 2017. He was 89 years old. Robert is survived by many devoted family members: his wife, Jeanette Nelson; their four sons, Jack Nelson, Raymond Nelson and his wife Olga, Karl Nelson and his wife Amy, and Ronald Nelson and his wife Danette; his sister Ann Binning, 21 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his brothers Bruce Nelson and Edwin Taylor, his daughter-in-law Mary-lu Nelson and his grandson Alexander Nelson.
Robert was born on September 1, 1928 in Oakland, California to Edwin Nelson and Shu-de-Li Naylor. He grew up in Piedmont, California where he was an active and athletic young man. He started a tree-top club known as Bob’s Ape Club. Besides rope climbing, he also excelled at swimming: lettering three times at Piedmont High School. He developed an interest in weight training and would regularly train with Jack LaLanne, in what was the first modern fitness gym in the country, located in Oakland. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1956 with a Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education. While at BYU he continued his weight training and even competed in weight lifting contests. At one point he held the Utah state record in the pull-over.
During his freshman year Robert played defensive end on the football team and threw javelin on the track team. During the following year he began serving a 30-month mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Uruguay & Paraguay (1947-1950). He was among the first ten missionaries to serve in those countries. He loved serving the Lord and being an ambassador for the Church. Robert said they had no printed materials in Spanish at that time so they would just teach as best they could. His good nature and fun-loving disposition helped him establish the church as an institution for good.
Following his mission he returned to BYU, but after a time put his education on hold to serve in the US Army during the Korean Conflict. Robert was placed into the military police when he arrived in Korea to reinforce the detachment guarding US-held prisoners of war. While working as an MP in Korea, Robert developed an interest in police work that stayed with him for many years. He was an active participant in the final prisoner exchange at the conclusion of hostilities. While in Korea he was blessed to have had his life preserved on more than one occasion. Despite the danger surrounding his assignment, he continued to pursue his interest in athletics and organized, coached and played for a volleyball team that was able to travel and play teams from other parts of the Army.
He returned to BYU after Korea, and while there met Jeanette Engh who would soon became his eternal companion. After graduating, Robert’s first job was with the US Border Patrol. The Border Patrol allowed him to combine his interest in law enforcement, which started in Korea but continued during college with him joining the Provo Police Department, and his language skills from his mission. That career took him and his family to many interesting locations including El Paso, Marfa, and Presidio Texas and Stockton California. He enjoyed the work, including the time he had to wrestle with an escaping prisoner to prevent his partner from being shot. Robert’s decisiveness and heroics with regard to the first hijacking of an airliner are on display in the Border Patrol Museum in El Paso. While he enjoyed the work, the concerns of his wife and the needs of his young family with four boys, convinced him to take a different job within the US Department of Justice. With that new job the family moved to Dallas, to Denver and back to Dallas.
With their sons now beginning to graduate from high school, Robert again put his family first by joining his wife Jeanette as the owners of a children’s clothing store in Holladay, Utah. While totally different than his career in law enforcement, he and Jeanette built a successful business through good teamwork and determination. Health issues caused them to sell that business, but when his health again stabilized they began and built a second successful retail business selling bride’s dresses and other formal wear. They operated that business until they retired.
His greatest joy was to support his wife and sons. With four boys active in sports there was always a game to attend. Robert attended every game possible. He could always be seen in the top row of the bleachers at every game, or swim meet, with his clipboard recording statistics. Rarely did he miss an event, as supporting his sons was something he loved to do. His greatest legacy however, is the manner in which he loved and supported Jeanette. As a team they moved several times, raised four sons, started and grew two different stores, all while generally enjoying themselves. In his later years it was his priority to care for Jeanette, never leaving her side.
Robert passed away due to complications arising from shingles. He will be remembered for his love and devotion to his family and for his diligence in honoring his commitments. He was immune from peer pressure as he tried to live his life according to his beliefs. Along the way he always looked for and tried to have fun. He will be missed by all who know him.
The family would like to recognize and thank the health care professionals who tended to Robert’s ailments, and to the circle of friends at Sunrise for the love and concern they showed Robert and Jeanette. Thank you also to Dr. Brent Muhlestein for going the extra mile in caring for Robert over the years. He was truly a trusted medical advisor and friend. Thanks also to Karl and Amy Nelson for housing Robert and Jeanette the last couple of months, and being so attentive to their needs.
Funeral services will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 14, 2017 at Anderson & Goff Mortuary, 11859 South 700 East, Draper, Utah. Interment, Nephi City Cemetery.