Wearing their Jon Nelson remembrance t-shirts Ben (6), Brady (11), Holli, Ryan (3) and Zach (13) Nelson stand by the cleaned up and refurbished dug out and ball field. A “Last Wishes” project completed. Photo by Shannon Anderson
By Tara Lindquist
and Melanie Dobson
Before Jon Nelson of Hayfield passed away, he wrote a letter in his email draft folder, entitled "Last Wishes." The letter explained that he'd had a great life was blessed to have his wife Holli and their four boys. At the end of the letter he wrote simple wishes and asked Holli to carry them out.
Jon passed away on Sept. 27, 2012 in Boston, while being treated for Nut Midline Carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. There are only about 100 known cases in the world. Jon had entered into a phase one drug trial with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. He was the first human to ever take a full dose of the drug for this trial.
After his death, Holli agreed to an autopsy. The doctors were able to retrieve cells and from those created a cell line which will provide years of research.
"From what I was told, it was by far the best line they had been able to create for this type of cancer," Holli said. "They named it after Jon, we decided to call it "NelsonBear" ("Bear" was Jon's nickname) and any research published involving this line will include this name."
He leaves a legacy of giving and continues to give to his hometown of Hayfield.
"Take some money and fix up the little league field in town," Jon Nelson said in his letter. "Put in some dug outs and make that place a great place to play."
The field is located just west of CrestView Villa and was started by and is maintained by the Hayfield Sons of American Legion (SAL).
"Baseball was a big part of our lives," Holli explained. "Jon coached the boys and he always enjoyed it."
With the help of friends, family, children that played on Jon's team and the SAL, Holli is making Jon's wishes become a reality. The project is being fulfilled in stages with lives being touched along the way.
At the end of April, before the big May snow storm, the older Nelson boys, Zach and Brady, spent all day helping with dugout construction. Keefe Zelinski had contacted Holli and invited the boys to join him on a Saturday to work. Keefe's dad died almost ten years ago; he told Holli he would have liked to have been able to do something like that in memory of his dad. The boys were thrilled to have a hand in the project and their signatures are hidden somewhere in the structure. Keefe also had shirts made for the family that say "KSS Construction" on the front and "In Memory of Jon Nelson" on the back.
On Mothers Day, a crew made up of Holli's family, SAL members, friends, young baseball players and their family members had a work day at the little league field. They cleaned up leaves, dead grass and sticks from around the fences. Black dirt was shoveled to fill in low spots and sod was laid. Sod was also cut and set to make the pitchers mound area round. New gravel was hauled, spread, and raked smooth on the infield. Then the refurbished park was christened with a little game of ball and running the bases.
The next stage will be a granite drinking fountain which Holli says should be installed mid-July.
Jon Nelson said "Angels aren't always from Heaven and don't always have wings. Rather they are everyday people who are there for you in your darkest hour." Jon has become one of those angles and his last wishes have given others the opportunity to be angels too.