Born in 1921 in Ypsilanti, North Dakota, Harold Nelson has lived a long life. The World War II Army veteran celebrated his 100th year on June 14, which also happens to be Flag Day and the 246th birthday of the United States Army. Nelson has lived at the Eaton Gardens, part of Eaton County’s long-term care facility in Charlotte, for about four years.
“I don’t feel old,” Nelson said. “This is something different,” was his comment towards the birthday festivities going on about him.
In honor of this special occasion, Nelson’s good friend, Joe Bristol, arranged with the Charlotte VFW and the American Legion to honor Nelson and his service to his country. A group of his fellow veterans gathered outside to salute Nelson for both his 100th birthday and his military service.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans estimates that out of the 16 million veterans of World War II, there are about 325,574 veterans still around today. 296 pass away each day.
Private First-Class Nelson was honorably discharged on January 1, 1946, from the Army. His point of entry into the service was Fort Custer in Battle Creek and he served in the Southern Philippines and New Guinea. While in the Army, he earned numerous commendations, including a Victory Medal, the American Theater Ribbon, the Asiatic Theater Ribbon with two Bronze Battle Stars, the Bronze Service Arrowhead, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one Bronze Battle Star and a Good Conduct medal.
“I’ve known Harold for about 40 years,” said Bristol, who owns Joe’s Gizzard City in Potterville. “He and his wife came to eat every Sunday for 40 years,” he explained. His wife passed away about 30 years ago, Bristol said, and they don’t have any children. Bristol has become his family and made a special effort to make Nelson’s 100th birthday a special one.
“He likes fast cars,” Bristol said. Nelson remembered, with a grin, his Studebaker Silver Hawk, a two-door coupe made by Studebaker from 1956 through 1959.
When asked what his favorite thing to eat was, Nelson responded with “fruit,” a healthy choice, but in true regard for his friend Joe, added “gizzards” to his list of favorites. “Good answer, Harold!” Bristol commented.
Nelson worked forty years for General Motors (GM) in Lansing. “What makes that unusual is that he didn’t hire in until he was 40,” Bristol said. Nelson was a water treatment inspector for GM.
“He was a very active man,” Bristol added. “He sometimes rode his bike from Potterville to his job in Lansing.”
Those desiring to send cards for Mr. Nelson can mail them to Harold Nelson, 530 Beech Street, Charlotte, MI 48813.