LeRoy J. Nelson — age 94, of Rolfe, died Thursday, March 20, 2003, at the Rolfe Care Center in Rolfe, Iowa.

Memorial services were 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, at the Rolfe Shared Ministry in Rolfe, with the Rev. Tamara EnTin officiating. Burial is in Clinton-Garfield Cemetery at Rolfe. There was no visitation. Powers Funeral Home in Rolfe handled arrangements.

LeRoy John Nelson was born November 25, 1908, near Rolfe, about two miles southeast of his present home, Meadow-Run Farm. He was the son of John C. and Othelia C. (Shelgren) Nelson. He attended the Shelgren/Christensen school near Gilmore City before attending Rolfe High School, graduating in 1927. He attended the University of Iowa and went on to receive his BS degree from Iowa State University in 1932. He was affiliated with Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.

In 1933, he married Mary E. McEwen at Rolfe. The couple settled near Rolfe. LeRoy farmed for seventy years and raised pure bred Aberdeen Angus Cattle and Arabian saddle horses. He was associated with saddle clubs for years and served as judge at horse shows and as ring master at local events. He enjoyed riding until he was ninety years old.

LeRoy began his long association with the ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service of the USDA) office in 1933 as treasurer of the first Corn-Hog Board in Pocahontas County. He served on the county or state level for 41 years, many as county chairman, retiring in 1974. He served as Garfield township trustee, retiring in 2000.

LeRoy was a member of the Rolfe Shared Ministry and served as elder and trustee of the Presbyterian Church. A fifty year member of the Masonic Lodge and the Order of the Eastern Star, he has long been active in community affairs and is listed in the 1963-64 volume of Who's Who in the Midwest.

Survivors include wife, Mary Nelson of Rolfe; children, Mary Le (Thomas Jr.) Clark of O'Fallon, IL; McEwen (Mary) Nelson of Rolfe; and Jeanie (Donald) Stowell of Dakota City; 8 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. LeRoy was preceded in death by his parents; and a sister, Vera Olerich.

In Celebration of the Life of Leroy J. Nelson

Funeral Service at the Shared Ministry of Rolfe*

March 26, 2003

Declaration of Purpose:

We’re gathered here today to celebrate the life of LeRoy J. Nelson, to thank God for him, to comfort one another in our sorrow, and to seek God’s continued blessings.

Poetry Reading: Equestrienne
By Jessie Edgerton Yeazel

I cannot think that there would be no horse
For you in heaven. Surely there must be
The best celestial steed reserved and waiting
For you to ride through all eternity.

I see you racing gladly down the years,
Wind in your hair and laughter in your eyes
As once you were, vital and young and free,
Pounding the endless trails of paradise.

For when I picture you as charging gaily
Down some far roadway, singing as you go,
Pain left behind you, then I can deny
The futile grief the human heart must know.

You are released, and time can have no fences
For such as you who in ethereal pride
Down the enchanting bridle paths of heaven,
Lost to the world, will now forever ride.

Scripture Readings:

Psalm 121:

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you — the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm — he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (NIV)

Psalm 23:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (KJV)

2 Timothy 4:6

For I’m already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I’ve fought the good fight, I’ve finished the race, I’ve kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)

Sermon: Dying of Having Lived

In her novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather tells of the Roman Catholic missionaries who came to the Southwest in the 1800's. After a hard, rugged, very eventful life, the old archbishop of Santa Fe, Archbishop Latour, was nearing the end. One morning he decided to take a walk outside. The young priest who took care of the frail old man scolded him, saying, "You will catch a cold and die." The old man stopped and looked at him, "My son, I shall not die of a cold, I shall die of having lived."

That reply has always impressed me. "I shall die of having lived." It describes how he lived his life — actively, independently, a life of devotion to others and to God. It describes how he viewed death — as a part of life, something not to be afraid of, but to be accepted. And it also describes the life of LeRoy Nelson.

I took communion to LeRoy earlier this month. He could barely talk, and his mouth was so dry, but he still managed to be gracious and grateful. His hug was still strong, and his kiss of appreciation for the time together was warm on the back of my hand. As usual, LeRoy blessed me with the gift of himself, and I left having been given as much as I gave.

For the most part, human beings are never really ready for death; it is always an intruder. But I think that LeRoy was ready. For him, death was merely the end of one part of life and the beginning of a new part of life. LeRoy was ready in the same way that Paul was ready when he wrote to Timothy. It's a letter from an older, experienced missionary to a younger, inexperienced one. Paul's time as a missionary, and his time on earth, are nearing an end. Paul says, "the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

Paul's life was one of profound devotion, to his Lord and to the churches he had founded. And now at the dusk of his life, Paul sees his life in a true perspective, he sees with faith, he sees the death that lies ahead, and he knows it to be the way he will again see the One he has so longed for. It is a very similar outlook to that of the old archbishop in Cather's book. He would die of having run the race, he would die of having lived, he would die having spent his life for others. Again, that describes LeRoy Nelson, a deeply devoted man.

LeRoy was devoted to his family. He deeply loved his wife, Mary, and was determined to care for her when he could barely even care for himself.

LeRoy was devoted to his community, serving in various capacities around town.

LeRoy was devoted to the church. He joined the Presbyterian church here in Rolfe on April 1, 1945, and remained one of the most faithful churchgoers ever: He was here week in and week out even after Mary was no longer able to attend. He inquired about the church when members would visit and when he was told that attendance was up, he said there was no better news he could get.

LeRoy was devoted to God. Near the end, when his memory was failing, he worried that he wasn’t keeping all the promises that he’d made to God. He faithfully read the Bible and the Upper Room. And the biggest smile I ever saw on his face was when we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together and Mary joined in.

Le Roy has fought the good fight. He has finished the race. He kept the faith. And he died, a devoted man, from having lived his devotion.

There is a hymn (All Creatures of Our God and King) that has this verse:

And you most kind and gentle death,
waiting to hush our final breath,
Oh praise him! Alleluia!
You lead to heaven the child of God,
Where Christ our Lord the way has trod.
O praise him! Alleluia!

That is the testimony of the Bible, that the death we human beings fight so hard against in fact is the very path to God, the way we are reunited with our Creator.

My friends, this is a time for tears. Don't ever let anybody tell you otherwise. But this is also a time of triumph and joy, because LeRoy has found the true object of his devotion. He has died from having lived, and the faith of his life has been fulfilled, as he stands now face to face with God. And for that we say always, thanks be to God.

Pastoral Prayer:

O God, before whom generations rise and pass away, we praise you for all your servants who, having lived this life in faith, now live eternally with you. We especially thank you for LeRoy whose baptism is now complete in death. We praise you for the gift of his life, for all in him that was good and kind and faithful, for the grace you gave him that kindled in him the love of your dear name and enabled him to serve you faithfully,

We thank you for his childhood and youth – for the early experiences he had of joy as he played with his sister and his childhood friends. We thank you for his early experiences of love at the hands of his parents. We thank you for his education and for the discipline he learned from running on the track team. We thank you for the love he found in his wife’s arms, for the home they established at Meadow Run Farm and for the life they shared together. We give you thanks for the children they bore and raised, Mary Le Ann, McEwen and Jeanie. We’re grateful that you saw fit to further bless their lives with the gift of 8 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. We give you thanks that his love of family extended to nieces and nephews, and to his brothers and sisters in the faith. We thank you for the animals that brought joy, comfort purpose and laughter to his life – especially the pure bred Aberdeen Angus cattle and the Arabian saddle horses. We further thank you for the skills of his life – and for his willingness to serve others. We thank you for his faithfulness, his devotion, his sense of humor, and his warmth. We thank you for all those he loved and all those who loved him. Finally, we thank you that for him death is past and pain ended, and that he has now entered the joy you have prepared; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant LeRoy. Acknowledge, we humbly pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

Committal Service

Scripture Sentences:

Romans 14:8

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

Committal: In sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to almighty God our brother LeRoy and we commit his ashes to their final resting place.

Revelation 14:13

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, says the Spirit. They rest from their labors, and their works follow them.


Almighty God, Father of the whole family in heaven and on earth, stand by those who sorrow, that, as they lean on your strength, they may be upheld, and believe the good news of life beyond life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

 *The Reverend Tamara EnTin of the Shared Ministry of Rolfe kindly agreed to send us an e-mail of the material she prepared for LeRoy’s funeral and committal services. We selected portions to reproduce in this abridged version. It was hard to determine what to include and what to leave out. For sure, we wanted to include those remarks which gave insight into the life of LeRoy. The Reverend Mary Jean Schnepf, one of LeRoy’s nieces, also spoke during the funeral services. When we receive her set of remarks, we will include them in this abridged version.

Note: we have heard another version of the Irish blessing that was used at LeRoy’s committal service. It goes like this:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And may you be in Heaven
a half hour before the Devil knows your dead.

We think LeRoy would have gotten a chuckle out of this version of the blessing. Indeed he was a man of humor and spunk with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He probably would have slapped his palm on his thigh and let out one of his wonderful chortles.