Ed Nelson, lifelong Woodinville resident and firefighter for over 41 years passed away on June 19. He was 69 years old. A true fixture of the Woodinville community, Nelson dedicated his life to helping those around him.
Born on September 15, 1943, Nelson grew up in a family that had firefighting roots. His uncle, Art Nelson, was the fire chief and one of the founding members of Summit Fire Department, now Woodinville Fire & Rescue. On September 11, 1961, Nelson joined the all-volunteer fire department and began serving along side his uncle and two cousins. Nelson had three sisters, Helen, Peggy and Janet. Helen was also involved in the fire service. "My sister was dispatcher for us," Nelson said in an interview for the Woodinville Weekly in 2003 highlighting his career and retirement. "She had the fire phone in her house." This was prior to 911 emergency call service used today. First the call came to his sister’s house as she, in turn, called others. "First one to get to the fire house sounded the siren," Nelson said.
Nelson served in the army from 1965 through 1967. Those were the only years Nelson lived away from Woodinville. Nelson married Jerrie Oster and became dad to her four children, Ken, Gary, Allison, and Marlee. The couple also had twins Edward and Richard that added to the Nelson family.
Nelson worked diligently to make Woodinville Fire a professional fire department. When he joined, there were 20-30 volunteers. Thirteen years later, he became the third paid firefighter for the district, working Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., making $650 a month. Upon his retirement in 2003 the district had 4 fire stations and 70 career uniformed fire personnel.
Nelson trained most firefighters still at Woodinville Fire. "He was my first captain when I joined the department as a volunteer in 1981" commented David Weed, Community Services Officer. "At first I didn’t know what to make o1f this gruff fire captain, until I learned that he has a heart of gold that is much larger than his stature. His compassion for people and those he served was infectious." Long time fellow firefighter and current Battalion Chief Cliff Griffin said of Nelson, "For one thing he was our mentor. He was very level headed. Everyone looked up to him because he was the calm one. He’s always been the one to turn to with questions about anything."
Turning to him didn’t stop with his retirement. "He had long been the district historian given his connection to the original fire chief and long tenure," said Weed. "He literally knew everyone who has ever been a firefighter with Woodinville Fire since the beginning in 1948." After Nelson’s retirement, Weed assumed the role of District Historian. "It will be very hard not having him around. I called him to stop by the fire station two weeks ago to help me identify some firefighters in an old picture we found. Of course Ed new exactly who they were."
During his retirement years, Nelson pursued his passion for golf, fishing and frequent visits to the casinos. His love for people remained strong. Famous for his drive to save money wherever possible, his favorite hangout at lunch was Costco. He became a fixture at the Café where he could enjoy a $1.50 lunch and was sure to run into someone he knew. "Costco was Ed’s front porch reminiscent of the fictional Andy Griffith town of Mayberry," said Weed. Knowing so many people in the Woodinville community, Nelson would run into fellow firefighters, friends, old classmates and enjoy visiting with them. "Amidst the bustle of a busy Costco at lunch, sitting with Ed took you back to a simpler time where you could talk about current events or better yet, the good old days," said Weed. "And with Ed, all the days were the good old days."
An open memorial service will be held 1:00 p.m. on Sat., June 29 at Fire Station 31 located at 17718 Woodinville Snohomish Rd. NE.