Nothing could stop Dave Nelson from dining out with his wife, Jan, on their 55th wedding anniversary. Not windchill, icy roads, nor a liquid diet that is a wistful reminder of his battle against stage four bladder cancer.
It’s a cancer doctors say should have taken him months ago.
Dave fell in love with Jan at age 14, married her at 19, raised three kids with her and cherishes the noise of seven grandkids, ages 11 to 24, especially when they’re all together at their Wisconsin cabin, named “Lykkebo,” Norwegian for “happy home.”
On Jan. 10, Dave wanted to celebrate all of that, even if he had to do it over a bowl of broth.
The low-key couple couldn’t imagine what happened next.
As Jan sipped champagne and dined on a salad and filet mignon, Dave’s cup runneth over with flavorful clam chowder, beet salad, walleye and beef, all of it served up with a secret ingredient:
One amazing blender.
“Pretty much anything can be puréed if you have the right blender,” said Paul Neu, executive sous chef at McCormick and Schmick’s in Edina. Neu was delighted to help make the couple’s anniversary memorable.
“He never mentioned he was in stage four,” said Neu, who created the menu with sous-chef-in-training, Shannon Nelson (no relation). “He just said he couldn’t digest food, but wanted to have the taste of it.”
Jan and Dave, both 74, are not media-hungry people. “But this is so beyond what any restaurant is expected to do,” Jan said.
Dave nodded. “We wanted them to know how important this was to us,” he said.
He also wants everyone to know that cold, puréed beet salad, “was so good.” He’s been back twice to order it by the quart.
The couple met 59 years ago on a church outing to Luck, Wis. As luck would have it, Dave said, “the car broke down or something,” which meant more time getting to know Jan.
After they married, Jan stayed home to raise their kids, Paul, Deb and David, first in Iowa, then in Edina, and volunteered for many organizations, including serving as president of the Edina League of Women Voters. Dave began a 51-year career as a CPA. He was an avid tennis player. Together, they golfed, traveled the world and loved to eat out.
In 1987, they headed to Bayfield, Wis., to hunt for a family cabin. They found one on a popular lake and, only later, realized that it was located in little Luck, just minutes from the church retreat where they had met more than 30 years before.
“Is that nuts?” Jan said. “It’s just crazy.”
His cancer first was diagnosed in 2002. While bladder cancer often affects smokers, he never was one.
When treatments didn’t work, surgeons built him a “neo-bladder,” and he went into remission for nearly a decade.