Cover photo for Paul Raymond Nelson's Obituary
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Paul

Paul Raymond Nelson

PAUL RAYMOND NELSON, 1916 - 2022. Paul was born in Hagerman, Idaho on May 31st , 1916, moving as a young boy first to Olympia, Washington and then to Seattle, at a timewhen board side-walks and fire engines pulled by horses were the norm. In 1925 when he was nine, the family moved to Hollywood, just two years after the citys famous sign was erected. Then in 1933, his family moved to Galesburg, Illinois, where Paul completed his last two years of high school and then enrolled at Knox College for a BA degree, majoring in chemistry.
As Paul was completing his final year at Knox in 1942, DuPont was looking for chemists to assist in the War effort and spoke to the Science Department at Knox. They recommended Paul, who had straight-As in chemistry. With permission from Knox College, Paul interviewed and immediately joined Dupont at the Ordinance Works in Kankakee, Illinois “ a month before final exams and his graduation ceremony. Then in 1944, DuPont transferred Paul to Hanford Engineering Works, Washington, to work on the Manhattan Project. Here he gained a top security clearance and was eventually made ranking supervisor responsible for directing the operation of a plutonium production reactor.
In 1958, Paul accepted a position in New York City with the Atomic Energy Commission (which in 1975 became the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) as a health physicist and radiation specialist, to monitor compliance with health and safety regulations governing the use of radioactive materials by AEC licensees in the North-East region. Following his retirement in 1978 at 62, Paul worked a further ten years as a consultant to NRC licensees. Certification for consultancy required ongoing courses and an 8-hour physics exam every five years.
Although having contracted smallpox, polio and scarlet fever in his early youth, he became an accomplished athlete -- competing at Los Angeles representative level in sprints and broad jump, and, subsequently, a talented baseball pitcher, a keen target archer and fisherman. In his later years, Paul took up sailing, mastered celestial navigation and went bare-boating on Long Island Sound.
On the east coast, the family settled in Upper Montclair, NJ and were active members of Union Congregational Church. Paul sang in the choir there for many years and also sang with the Montclair Mens Glee Club and the Montclair Operetta Club.
He was also a meticulous craftsman, acquiring knowledge and considerable skill in fabricating bowstrings, arrows and fishing rods. On a larger scale, Paul was an accomplished handyman: with three friends, he built a two-story cabin near Mount Rainier, and, in retirement in New Jersey, he transformed a summer cottage on Lake Glen Wild into a year-round home.
In 1943, when Paul was working for DuPont in Kankakee, he met Cena (Lucena) Cryder. They married in 1944 in Washington State, settling in Richland, a government town constructed for those working at Hanford. The union lasted 77 years until Cenas death in September 2021. The closeness of their relationship is symbolized by their love of dancing. Right up to their final years, they would invariably draw warm applause when a dance floor gave them the opportunity to display not only their ballroom dancing skill, but their evident joy in being together.
Paul and Cena raised two daughters, Andrea (living in Sydney, Australia) and Barbara (Asheville, North Carolina), both of whom were with Paul during his last weeks. Paul is survived by his daughters, his five grandchildren (Paul, John, Mark, Anna and Andrew) and his nine great-grandchildren (Henry, Lucy, Samantha, Luke, Verity, Felicity, Toby, Vera and Ryan).
Paul and Cena lived at their Lake Glen Wild home until 2018, when they opted for an easier lifestyle moving to an apartment at Cedar Crest Senior Living Community in Pompton Plains, where Paul passed away on September 14th, 2022, aged 106.
On the occasion of Pauls achieving year 100, the President of his alma mater, Knox College, paid him this tribute:
What an extraordinary life you have led “ serving our nation in pivotal moments of our history as a nation, with achievements that bridge the intellectual and practical, with hobbies on land and on sea, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. This is a life well-lived.
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