Dr Arthur T. Nelson

March 27, 1923 ~ December 1, 2019 (age 96)


Dr. Arthur Theodore Nelson, 96, died of natural causes on December 1, 2019.

Arthur grew up in Charlestown and Westerly, RI where he was voted "Most Optimistic" by his high school mates. Arthur espoused an "I can do anything" attitude, including surviving WW II and the Battle of Iwo Jima, sailing his 35' Pearson from RI to the Bahamas, hiking the Appalachian Trail, building his own house from scratch, and (which he attests was his greatest accomplishment) vigorously pursuing and ultimately winning the hand of Dr. Joan Dorothy Berndt Nelson as his wife of 70 years.

As Lieutenant Commander of USS LST-634 in WW II, Arthur sailed above the Arctic Circle, below the Equator, and engaged in events off China and Japan that helped define WW II. He was proud of his achievements and his fellow servicemen, and has been a loyal and true patriot throughout his life. After the war, he earned a MA at Trinity College, a PhD in Education at Columbia University, and had a family of three daughters. He taught them to do everything he enjoyed most (hunting, fishing, boating, traveling, and building and fixing things).

Arthur served as Superintendent of Schools at the Alfred I. DuPont school system in Wilmington, Delaware, and later in Brookfield, Connecticut. He was a Professor at Temple University, and also taught courses at Western CT State for the joy of working with students in the classroom.

Having an itinerant spirit, Arthur took sabbaticals to work as a university professor in Wagga Wagga, Australia in 1976 and in Beibei, China in 1984 shortly after the Cultural Revolution. With his wife Joan, he traveled the world with only a knapsack and a sense of adventure, exploring uncommon places in his day, including Thailand, Nepal, Africa, as well as all of Europe. Back home, he was an avid and successful salt and freshwater fisherman, hunter, skier, hiker, biker, aficionado of theatre and classical music, and supporter of local community events and causes.
Upon "retirement," Arthur became involved in a range of activities including The Kentish Guards (Lt Cmdr), the Varnums, Wakefield Rotary, Charlestown Republican Committee (Chairman), and the Chariho District Building Committee, to name just a few. He learned to play the violin, fife, and flute, but eventually settled on playing the baritone horn in the Westerly Town Band.  One of his favorite endeavors was working to restore and sail one of the two surviving WW II LSTs -- LST 325, now serving as a floating museum in Evansville, IN.  

Arthur found a fullness of joy in "the outdoors," and professed that the perfection and exquisite beauty of Nature could only attest to the existence of a most gracious and loving God.  Arthur's inimitable approach to life may be summed up in the sensibility of Julian of Norwich:  You shall never be overcome.........All is well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.

Arthur is survived by his wife Joan, and three daughters, April McKay, Gay Nelson and Jill Nelson.

Donations to LST 325 in lieu of flowers would give Arthur immeasurable pleasure.

Donations can be made via the website donation button, or by mail at Attn: Art Nelson-LST 325, 840 LST Drive, Evansville, IN 47713.

Calling hours are Thursday, Dec. 5, from 4 pm to 6:30 pm, at Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home, 121 Main St, Westerly, RI. The funeral will be held Friday, Dec. 6, at 11:30 am, at the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Exeter, RI.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr Arthur T. Nelson, please visit our floral store.


December 5, 2019

4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home
121 Main St.
Westerly, RI 02891

December 6, 2019

11:30 AM
R.I. Veterans Cemetery
10 Rod Road
Exeter, RI


Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery

Exeter, RI

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