David Nelson

David Arthur Nelson

Friday, July 10th, 1942 - Saturday, February 29th, 2020
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Anyone who has reached the Nelson’s answering machine has heard David’s signature greeting, “Heeeeeeeello. You’ve reached the Nelsons over here, and we’re busy countin’ our blessings, so I reckon it’s gonna take a while…” Quintessential David, the message conveyed his characteristic friendliness, moseying pace, and mindset of gratitude. A man of great faith, David was also a prolific reader and loving grandfather. He delighted in daily walks with his beloved black lab and the opportunity to talk with neighbors along the way. David continued walking until the last week of his life, when he came down with pneumonia. He passed away on February 29, 2020, surrounded by his family.

David was born in 1942 in Ligonier, Indiana to Margaret (Kelley) Nelson and Charles Nelson. His fond memories of childhood included, “family farms, lakes and rivers, woods, peacefulness, knowing everyone in town because it was small, and basketball.” In 1955, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where David made lifelong friends at Camelback High School. David went on to live in Arcadia, California and Clearwater, Florida before enlisting in the US Army. He served three years as an in-air demolition technician in Germany where, as he later explained to his kids, he “jumped out of airplanes and worked on bombs.” During and after his service, Dave traveled around Europe with his best friend, Corky, later remarking on the “constant beauty and discovery and HISTORY around every corner!”

Upon returning to the United States, David settled in San Diego and became a pilot and flight instructor. In 1971, he met Therese Dennis, with whom he went on to share 48 years of marriage and raise five children. David provided for his family, first as a pilot and later as a trucker. The autonomy of trucking suited David, and he took great pride in his work. Always recognizable with his white beard, cowboy boots, and wide brim hat, he maintained a truck that was spit-polish clean. Co-workers knew him affectionately as Papa Smurf. And friends and fellow drivers over the CB radio may remember his earlier handles of “Gunsmoke” and “Ol’ Has Been.”

David had a deep appreciation for the natural world and recognized in it the generous abundance of a loving God. He anticipated and cherished the seasons as they unfolded in the landscape around him, collecting leaves between book pages and sharing stories of “pink skies” at dawn with his grandsons. He carried a tiny laminated quote about autumn by Lin Yutang in his wallet for years. He began every morning reading his well-worn Bible, marking favorite passages in the Gospels and the Psalms with underlining and exclamation points. Each year on Easter morning, he delivered Easter lilies to the doorsteps of dozens of family and friends around San Diego and always ended his circuit with mass at his local parish.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating in David’s name to Mission Trails Regional Park, a natural refuge that David cherished.
Services will be held at a future date when we are able to gather again.
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Service Details

  • Interment

    Miramar National Cemetery
    5795 Nobel Dr.
    San Diego, Ca 92122
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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Jody nelson

Posted at 01:40am
So many loving memories with my brother. Those memories are holding the pieces of my heart together.


Posted at 06:25pm
My heart was blessed 25 years ago when the depth of his Faith and Love entered my life and touched my heart forever. He’s always been known and loved around here as MY UNCLE DAVID... I know he has already found my dad Up there (I never really understood how they could get along and understand each other) and they are both taking care of us! Thank you for letting be me a tiny piece of this wonderful story. Love u all... SO MUCH!

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