Lee Nelson, of Iola, has been named grand marshal of the 50th annual Iola Winter Carnival to be held Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 5-6.
Lee Alvin Nelson is a native son, born Friday, Sept. 9, 1921, at the Iola Hospital to Alvin George Nelson and his wife, Hannah Minerva Guerin-Nelson. He was the first of three children.
As a youngster, Nelson enjoyed skiing and ski jumping, swimming and water skiing. He played on the Iola High School basketball team and sang in the junior choir at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.
Nelson was a member of the Iola Winter Sports Club (IWSC) and ski jumped for several years. He jumped at many of the local ski hills including Hogsback Ski Hill in Iola, Peru Ski Hill, Aasen Ski Hill north of Iola, and other ski hills throughout the area.
During the 1945-1946 ski jumping seasons, Nelson was on the IWSC board of directors. During this time he helped rebuild Hogsback Ski Hill located at the north edge of Iola on the west side of the Iola Mill Pond, now known as Lake Iola. The entire old wooden scaffold was dismantled, the under hill was reworked and a new scaffold was erected using the metal framework from old windmills for the support structure.
Nelson worked with the Green Bay & Western Railroad and was eventually assigned to the Scandinavia sectional gang, which was responsible for the tracks and right of way. They also patrolled the tracks from Manawa to near Amherst and from Iola to Waupaca.
Nelson was drafted and inducted into the U.S. Army on Aug. 19, 1942, at Fort Sheridan, Ill., then sent to Camp Robinson near Little Rock, Ark., for basic infantry training for the 134th Infantry. He was later transferred to the Army Air Corps and sent to San Antonio, Texas, for pre-flight training.
He was soon flying combat missions over France and Germany in a B-17, arriving in the European Theater of Operations on April 6, 1944, as a member of a combat crew on a B-17. He served as a co-pilot and later pilot, and lead pilot for squadron formation in combat. He was eventually promoted to first lieutenant and flew his last combat mission July 24, 1944.
After he returned home to the U.S., Nelson served as a flight instructor in Florida. He was later sent back to training, but the war was drawing to a close. Nelson was discharged from active duty on Nov. 3, 1945.
He then joined the Army Reserve and was assigned to Truax Field, Madison. He also obtained a commercial license.
Nelson was promoted to the rank of major in the Air Force Reserve on May 21, 1957. He retired three years later after serving his country for almost 18 years.
After Lee and his brother, Philip, got back home after the war, they both went to work for a tree trimming company, Meyer & Co. from Chicago, that was under contract with the Wisconsin Power & Light Co. to trim trees in the Ripon area.
Nelson next went to work for Phil Neidert to help build a new Plymouth automobile dealership.
He started working as a lineman for the Scandinavia Telephone Co. on May 1, 1949. This was the beginning of his 29 years of service with the telephone company.
After retiring on Sept. 30, 1986, Nelson decided to really get serious about his hobbies, which include woodcarving and building and flying radio-controlled airplanes.
Nelson is a member of the Iola Chapter of the Sons of Norway-Norskeland, Lodge 5-580.