A World War II veteran in southern Minnesota has conquered his summertime mission of walking 100 miles, one for each of his birthdays, while raising money for the Salvation Army’s campaign to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mickey Nelson of Clarks Grove was joined last week by more than 100 people as he strode to the finish line three blocks from the house where he was born and still calls home.

Those joining Nelson included members of a World War II re-enactment group, Salvation Army staff, and many family members and friends.

Upon Nelson finishing what he started in May, state Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, read a proclamation from the Minnesota House of Representatives honoring Nelson, and the Salvation Army presented him with a medal.

Nelson served in an armored division maintaining tanks during the war. As a businessman, he founded and operated a bus business for 58 years.

“I grew up during the Great Depression and, living on the farm, we always had enough to eat,” Nelson said recently. “But I remember how people who were struggling were lined up in bread lines. With coronavirus, I was seeing so many people laid off from their jobs that I thought there must be something I could do to help.”

In May, Nelson thought he might raise $5,000 for his local Salvation Army’s feeding programs. As of Tuesday morning, his efforts had pulled in much more — nearly $110,000. Donations are still being accepted at SalvationArmyNorth.org/mickey.

“Because of COVID-19, our staff is working overtime and our resources are being stretched like never before,” said Lt. Col. Dan Jennings, commander of the Salvation Army Northern Division. “Mickey’s selfless effort is helping an incredible number of people.”