Jeff Nelson was a good neighbor and devoted friend of the Key Peninsula who died Jan. 30 this year. The many volunteers who worked with him described him as a “can do” gentleman with a tremendous sense of responsibility that made him work beyond the restrictions of his serious health issues.
“He was very devoted to KeyFEST and really worked hard at making that happen from its inception until he fell too ill to participate,” said KP Fire Department Battalion Chief Chuck West. Nelson served as president, treasurer, talent scout and Webmaster for KeyFEST.
Above all else, this Washington native was devoted to his family. Nelson was drawn to the Key Peninsula to be near his grandmother, Dorothy Parrott, who lived at Jackson Lake. The Nelson home was a gathering hub for the extended families on his side and those of his wife, Jean’et.
The couple was away from their Washington family during the years when Nelson worked as an engineer at Todd Pacific Shipyards in San Pedro, California. He worked during the time when shipbuilding peaked for the yard in 1983 only to close in 1989. Jean’et said he was “one of the last guys who left after the yard closed in the 80s.” But he came home with a new career idea. “He told me, ‘Babe, I think this computer thing is going to be the next big thing,'” Jean’et said. The couple moved back to their families on the Key and Kitsap Peninsulas and Nelson reinvented himself with computer design work.
Serious medical problems began to plague Nelson while in California and continued during his retirement years. But he still camped, hiked Mount Rainer, joined a search and rescue club, flew radio-controlled airplanes, built over a dozen websites, and joined the Key Pen Fair Board. He built websites at low or no charge for Key Peninsula nonprofits such as Two Waters Arts Alliance, Key Peninsula Business Association, Key Peninsula Community Council and KeyFEST. After his first year on the fair board, he became president.
According to Jud Morris, director of the Children’s Home Society, for about three years Nelson “was the heart and soul of the fair. He was so dedicated to keeping the fair going.”
Morris said that Nelson and his family took on the Key’s Got Talent event, an idea of Claudia Loy’s, co-owner of Sunnycrest Nursery. “Even with his health issues it was always ‘can do.’ He was always such a gentleman. Never anybody but himself,” she said.
Morris and Nelson worked very hard on the talent show. The decision to include all the contestants at the fair, not just the final winners, resulted in a community-involved event with about 30 acts. “It was really, really good stuff. First-rate,” Morris says.
Nelson is one more example of the extraordinary volunteer culture that flourishes on the Key Peninsula, said Morris. “He deserves all the memories and accolades he gets.”