Posted 12/30/14 (Tue)
Alvin was born April 5, 1934, a son of Tobias and Agnes (Karlsen) Nelson, farmers and ranchers at Mobridge, S.D. Agnes Nelson’s parents, Paul and Ingeborg Anna (Eklo) Karlsen, came to the area in 1879 and were the first family to settle in what became Mobridge, SD. Alvin’s maternal grandfather, Paul, was born on Ulstein Island, near Alesund, Norway. Alvin’s maternal grandmother, Ingeborg, came from the Eklo farm, Verdal, Norway near Trondheim.
Alvin’s father, Tobias Nelson, came to Mobridge in 1905 from Bergen, Norway. Alvin has primary and secondary citizenship records for his family, as well as World War I records for his father. Alvin’s father died in 1942 and his mother died in 1975.
Alvin and his wife, Kaye Van Dyke, were married May 8, 1958, and they have one son, Louis Alvin Nelson, born March 6, 1962 at Williston, N.D. Louis is married to Allene Olson, daughter of Harold and Maureen Olson, Killdeer, N.D. Louis and Allene have one son, Garett Louis Nelson. Louis and Allene currently own and operate the Nelson Ranch.
When Alvin was sixteen years old, he and his brother were supposed to be fencing. Instead, they drove off to a nearby rodeo at Java, S.D. Alvin entered, won the cow riding competition and earned $17…more than he made all week milking cows! A career was born! Alvin won the South Dakota State and National High School Saddle Bronc Riding titles in 1952. He joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1953 and was a member for 61 years. He entered and won rodeos all over the United States and Canada from San Francisco to New York City, San Antonio, Texas, to Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Alvin changed saddle bronc riding forever by tying up his stirrups in what is called “quarter binds.” Alvin said telling his friends how to do this was a mistake! He won the 1957 World Champion Saddle Bronc Riding title and qualified for five Wrangler National Finals Rodeos. He won the saddle bronc riding average at the National Finals Rodeo in 1961 and 1962 and the All-Around at the 1961 NFR in Dallas.
Alvin was inducted into the: ProRodeo Hall of Fame, Colorado Springs, Colo., National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum (formerly National Cowboy Hall of Fame) Oklahoma City, Okla., North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, Medora, N.D., South Dakota Hall of Fame, Chamberlain, S.D., Casey Tibbs Center, Ft. Pierre, S.D., Ak-Sar-Ben (Nebraska spelled backwards) Hall of Fame, Omaha, Neb., and the Montana ProRodeo Wall of Fame, Billings, Mont.
Although Alvin became a North Dakotan in 1953 when he won the North Dakota Rodeo Association’s Bull Riding Championship, it wasn’t until 1956 that he purchased his first ranch from Einar Pierce in southwestern McKenzie County with rodeo winnings. His second, the Scott Gore ranch, followed in 1957. Alvin chose to ranch in the beautiful Badlands along the Little Missouri River because of the winter grazing afforded by the protection of the buttes and hills.
Alvin and Kaye had met at the Cow Palace rodeo in San Francisco, Calif., where Kaye, as Miss Rodeo North Dakota 1957, was competing for Miss Rodeo America. Casey Tibbs, a pageant judge, introduced them. They were married at First Lutheran Church, Watford City, N.D., on May 8, 1958, and have always been members. Alvin was drafted into the U. S. Army in 1958 and they lived in Germany for one year while Alvin served as an army medical specialist. He flew in a helicopter ambulance crew in the large army training areas at Wildflicken, Bayreuth and Belsun-Hone.
Alvin was a 1958 Charter Life Member of the National Cowboy Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla., and was a life and annual member of the Rodeo Historical Society. Alvin was elected to the RHS Board of Directors and served two terms. He was also elected to the Rodeo Cowboy Alumni Board of Directors. Alvin served on McKenzie County Grazing Association’s Board of Directors for 35 years, and as secretary-treasurer of the Grassy Butte Scale for 35 years. Alvin was a member of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, and held a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association gold card. Alvin belonged to the Sons of Norway, Farm Bureau, First Lutheran Church (Watford City), and the Republican Party.
Alvin and Kaye enjoyed their retirement, traveling and living on the ranch with their son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Alvin was a quiet, humble man with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye!
Alvin died on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn., after a courageous battle with cancer.
Alvin is survived by his wife, Kaye Nelson; son and daughter-in-law, Louis and Allene Nelson; grandson, Garett Nelson, all of Grassy Butte, N.D.; sister, Anna Sogge, Spearfish, S.D.; brother, Toby Nelson, Sturgis, S.D.; sister-in-law, Twyla Nelson, Mitchell, S.D.; brother, Palmer Nelson, Killdeer, N.D., and many nieces and nephews.
Alvin was preceded in death by his parents, brother, Tillman Nelson, and nieces, Twylieta and Tamera Nelson.
Funeral services for Alvin Nelson, 80, of Grassy Butte, N.D. will be 11 a.m. today at the First Lutheran Church in Watford City, N.D. with Pastor Rob Favorite officiating. Interment will take place in the Grassy Butte Cemetery, in Grassy Butte, N.D. under the direction of the Fulkerson Funeral Home of Watford City, N.D. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora, N.D.; ProRodeo Hall of Fame, Colorado Springs, Colo.; or the National Cowboy Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Okla. Remembrances, condolences and pictures may be shared with the family at www.fulkersons.com.