The Frau Erica Project
Muellers in America:
The first 155 years


The Mueller Farm, on Kammerer Road east of Kendallville, Indiana, photographed in rain June 4, 2007, by Mark Nickel

Ken Nelson

Kenneth Everett Nelson died on November 30, 2017, at Village Manor Residence in Howell, Michigan, from the complications of old age. He was 98.

Kenneth Nelson was born on June 22, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, to parents Jacob Wesley and Mattie (Ellefson) Nelson. He was baptized on September 14, 1919, at the Moreland Danish-Norwegian Methodist Episcopal Church and confirmed on May 27, 1934, at St. Timothy Evangelical Lutheran Church. He attended William Penn Nixon Elementary School and graduated from Kelvyn Park High School in 1937.

After graduation, Ken worked at a few jobs before he began working as a punch-press hand at Palmer Square Tool Works in Chicago. He later talked his way into an apprenticeship as a tool and die maker. Thus began a 45-year career with that company when he went from being an apprentice to president of the company, known as Palmer Metal Products. He retired in 1984.

Near the end of World War II after several deferments authorized by his employer, Ken was drafted by the United States Army and served with the Headquarters and Service Company 340th Engineer Battalion. He was deployed in the post-war reconstruction first in the Philippines and then in Korea. He received an honorable discharge in 1946.

On April 5, 1941, he married Luella Marjorie Gunderson at the Kedzie Avenue Danish-Norwegian Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago. To this union were born three children , Dean Wesley, Lois Mae and Neal Warren. Luella passed away in 1968. They were married 27 years. On September 10, 1977, he married Olga Waldschmidt Koetke at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest. With this union he gained another large family and four step-children: Donald Koetke, Susan Nickel, Bonnie Buffa, and Nancy Roach. Olga passed away in 2005. They were married 27 years.

Ken was a former member of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Chicago, where he was active as a Cub Scout leader, Council member, Couple’s Club member and lector, and served as congregational president. During this time he was also active in the Northwest Community Lodge No. 8 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Following his marriage to Olga, he became an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church (Mayfair), where he served on the Stewardship and Endowment Committees. During this time he was also active in the Triangle Lions Club in Chicago. When he and Olga moved from their home in Lincolnwood, Illinois, to Valparaiso, Indiana, in 2004, they transferred their church membership to Immanuel Lutheran Church in that city. When Olga died only 10 months after they moved, her son Don and his wife Carol became beloved companions and caregivers for Ken. In 2015, Ken moved to Village Manor Retirement Home in Howell, Michigan, and he transferred his church membership to All Saints Lutheran Church in Hartland. After his move to Michigan, daughter Lois and her husband Rich became daily visitors, hosts and caregivers for Ken. In June 2017, Ken entered hospice care, and benefited from the loving care provided by the staff of Village Manor and members of The Care Team Hospice.

Ken was known for his warm personality, his care for others, his gift for bringing people together, and his deep personal faith . Almost everyone who met Ken quickly liked him and felt his genuine concern and support. He delivered meals on wheels mostly to people much younger than him until he was 93. After he discovered there were no planned social activities at Village Manor on the weekends, he organized a sing-along for the residents on Saturday afternoons. He was deeply interested in politics and concerned about matters of justice and fairness. As recently as a week before his death, Ken was trying to fix his defective hearing aids. And he practiced his faith with daily prayer and scripture reading. He also loved playing games and enjoying an old fashioned cocktail.

Ken is survived by his three children and their spouses: the Rev. Dean (Marianne) Nelson, Lois (Richard) Baranski, and Neal (Susan) Nelson. He is also survived by three of the four children he gained through his marriage to Olga and their spouses: Dr. Donald (Carol) Koetke, Bonnie (James) Buffa, and Nancy (Nathan) Roach, and son-in-law the Rev. Joel Nickel. He leaves behind eight biological grandchildren: Kirsten Calabrese, Mark Nelson, Adam Baranski, Yvonne Janning, Dr. Kenneth Nelson, Nicole Miskiewicz-Nelson, David Nelson and Jacob Nelson, as well as eleven additional grandchildren he gained through Olga: Dale Koetke, Christopher Koetke, Jill Thompson, Philip Nickel, Daniel Nickel, Joy Gehlen, Dr. William Schiemann, Julie Holling, Nathan Roach, Joshua Roach and Anna Katherine Roach. Twenty seven great-grandchildren also survive, as well as many nieces and nephews.

He was pre-deceased by his parents, his older brother, Wesley, his first and second wives, all his American cousins and those in Norway, all his brothers- and sisters-in law, his daughter by marriage, Susan Nickel, and his grandson, Zachary Roach.

A memorial service was held at All Saints Lutheran Church, 12701 East Highland Road, Hartland, Michigan, on Saturday, December 9, at 3 p.m. Memorials may be given to The Care Team Hospice or a charity of your choosing. Interment of his ashes will take place in Chicago at a later date.