Cover photo for Donald Laverne Nelsen's Obituary
Donald Laverne Nelsen Profile Photo
1943 Donald 2022

Donald Laverne Nelsen

May 17, 1943 — September 4, 2022

Donald LaVerne Nelsen was born at his parents’ home on May 17, 1943 to Emmert and Margaret (Herron) Nelsen of rural Audubon, Iowa. Don succumbed to an illness and passed away on the evening of September 4, 2022, reaching the age of 79 years.

Don grew up east of Audubon on the Nelsen family farm. He was baptized and confirmed at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Audubon. Don attended country school and eventually Audubon High School where he graduated with the class of 1961. He was active in high school sports and had lots of success in football, track and wrestling, placing 4th at the state wrestling tournament, and qualifying for state track meet in the 180 low hurdles. During his time in Audubon, he met the love of his life, Dorothy Andersen. They were united in marriage on January 27, 1963. To this marriage four children were born: Teresa, Nicholas, Andrea and James.

After high school, Don worked with Aagaard Construction and served as a deputy for the City of Audubon. In 1965, Don completed the police academy and joined the Iowa State Patrol, being the youngest Iowa State Patrol enlistee ever at that time. Don and Dorothy relocated to Council Bluffs before permanently moving to Avoca in 1967 where they raised their family. In 1980, Don retired from the state patrol and purchased Nelsen’s Mini Mart in Avoca, managing the store until 2013.

He was active in coaching his children’s sporting activities, and helped lead Nick’s baseball team to a B Cub State Championship in 1981. Don also coached high school football, first as an assistant then assuming head coach duties when Coach Wharton retired after the 1994 season. In 1991, Don was acting as an assistant while his son James played for the State Runner Up Vikings, and in 1996 he was honored with the District Coach of the Year Award. Don was also a Bus Driver for AHSTW schools for many years and drove to various sporting activities.

Don’s family meant everything to him. Family vacations were a tradition while raising his family, and this tradition continued as his children married and had families of their own. He was a great dad, and an even greater grandfather. He cherished every second he had to spend together with his family, whether it be vacations and trips, holidays or just Sunday coffee.

He loved being a part of the community, and coffee with his buddies or playing pool were frequently highlights of his day. Don was an avid golfer, and enjoyed Thursday’s “Men Night”, and evenings with the Nerd Herd where many laughs were had with friends. Most Saturdays you would find Don and Dorothy attending church followed by supper at various area restaurants with good friend Dick Brown. On fall weekends, you could often find Don relaxed in his recliner rooting for the Iowa Hawkeyes and Green Bay Packers.

Those Don leaves to mourn include his wife of 59 years, Dorothy (Andersen) Nelsen, Avoca.

children: Nicholas Nelsen and Andrea (Kerry) Danker, all of Avoca; and James (Jenny) Nelsen, Van Meter, IA. Siblings: Darrell (Sue) Nelsen, Tom Nelsen, Vitta Rattenborg all of Audubon; Frank (Marlene) Nelsen, Avoca; Phyliss Nelsen, Des Moines, IA. Other Family Members: Donald (Janice) Andersen, Audubon; Dale Andersen, Carroll. Grandchildren: Derek (Monica) Kardell, Audubon; Lynnsey (Joe) Hargens, Elk Horn, NE; Erika (Chris) Van Cleave, Atlantic; Hunter Nelsen, Courtney (Tyler) Robinson, Christian (Paige) Danker, and Ashtyn Danker, all of Avoca; Bodhi and Makai Nelsen, Van Meter. Great grandchildren: Maddix Fye, Jaycey and Jordy Hargens, Peyton and Marley Van Cleave and Navi Robinson. Don is also survived by his good friend, Jim Sievers and several nephews, nieces and many friends.

Those preceding him in death were his daughter, Teresa Kardell; his parents Emmert and Margaret Nelsen; siblings Arnold Nelsen and Marie Myers; Father and Mother-in-Law Samuel and Elvira Andersen; Other family: Ben Myers, Robert Rattenborg, Betsy Nelsen, Norma and Big John Wanniger, Evelyn and Bob Wiges, Milo Andersen, James Andersen, LaVerne and Ivy Andersen, Betty Andersen, numerous nephews, nieces and many good friends.

The family will meet with friends on Monday evening, September 12, 2022, from 4:00 P.M. until 8:00 P.M. at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Avoca, Iowa. Funeral services will be conducted by Pastor Matt Bahnfletth on Tuesday morning, September 13, 2022, at 10:30 A.M. at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Avoca. Interment will be in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Audubon, Iowa at 3:00 P.M. The honorary casket bearers will be Ric Hilgenberg and Larry Olsen. The casket bearers will be his grandchildren Derek Kardell, Lynnsey Hargens, Erika Van Cleave, Courtney Robinson, Hunter Nelsen, Christian Danker, Ashtyn Danker, Bodhi Nelsen, and Makai Nelsen.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donald Laverne Nelsen, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Monday, September 12, 2022

4:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Starts at 10:30 am (Central time)

The family will gather with friends following the funeral service for a time for food and fellowship in the lower level of Trinity Lutheran Church. Burial will be at 3:00 P.M. in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Audubon, Iowa.

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Maple Grove Cemetery

, Audubon, IA 50025

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