Nine days after celebrating his 100th birthday, World War II veteran and legendary Augsburg College athlete and coach Edor Nelson died Wednesday morning.
On Aug. 18, hundreds of Augsburg alumni, friends and student-athletes attended a ceremony for Nelson on the Augsburg campus in Minneapolis, where a new video scoreboard was unveiled on the outdoor athletic field that bears his name.
“As we mourn the loss of Edor, we also celebrate an exceptional 100 years of life,” Augsburg athletic director Jeff Swenson said. “I’m so grateful that we had a chance to honor Edor on his 100th birthday last Monday. It’s an event that all of us in the Augsburg community will remember forever.”
Said Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow: “Few people in Augsburg’s history could claim as long and lasting an impact on this college as Edor Nelson.”
Nelson coached Augsburg’s baseball team from 1946 to 1979, leading the Auggies to seven MIAC titles. He was named head coach of Augsburg’s football team in 1947, serving in that role until 1969.
In addition, he helped start Augsburg’s wrestling program in 1949, coaching the squad until 1963. He also helped restart the Augsburg men’s hockey program, coaching in the 1956-57 season.
A native of Dawson, Minn., Nelson graduated from Augsburg in 1938. He played baseball, football and basketball for the Auggies, earning all-conference honors in baseball and basketball.
He moved to Lamberton, Minn., after graduation, teaching and coaching baseball and basketball. His Lamberton baseball team won the state title in 1939.
In 1940, Nelson was drafted into the U.S. Army.
“My hometown was Dawson and you had to register in that county,” Nelson said in a 2008 Star Tribune interview. “You received a number when you registered and mine was 58. And when they drew for the draft, the first number was 58.
“That made me the first guy drafted in Lac qui Parle County.”
Nelson arrived in Europe a couple of days after D-Day in 1944 as a member of the 43rd Reconnaissance Cavalry. He was assigned to Gen. George Patton’s Third Army.
Nelson was captured by the Germans in October and spent several months in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany and Poland before an escape and eventual liberation.
“We spent a lot of time in boxcars and stowed away on boats,” he said. “By then, we were trying to avoid the Russians more than the Germans. We wound up at Port Said in Egypt, then across the sea to a military camp in Naples.”
Upon his return to Minnesota, he earned his master’s degree at the University of Minnesota in 1947, after joining the Augsburg faculty and coaching staff.
Nelson was born on Aug. 18, 1914. He and his wife, Dorathy, were married in 1941 and had two sons, Bob and Bruce. Dorathy Nelson died in 2011 at age 95.
Memorial details are pending.