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Roald Allen Nelson


Dr. Roald Allen Nelson, Colonel, U.S. Army, retired, of Coralville, Iowa, passed away Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018. He died at home, surrounded by family. Roald was born on Oct. 22, 1931, in Clifton, Texas, the son of the Rev. Allen and Myrtle (Ellenson) Nelson. The family moved to Roland, Iowa, in 1941, and Roald graduated from high school there. He was a center for the Roland Rockets basketball team, scoring over 1,000 points for that program, which was an Iowa high school basketball powerhouse in the early 1950s. After high school, Roald moved on to Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, where he majored in chemistry and graduated magna cum laude. He lettered for the Norse basketball team for four years while also being active in many other campus groups. He went on to earn his M.D. from the University of Iowa Medical School in 1958. Upon graduation, he was united in marriage to Ruth Thalacker on June 1, 1958. Roald joined the U.S. Army in 1959.
Dr. Nelson completed residencies in internal medicine at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco and in pulmonary diseases at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, Aurora, Colo., earning board certification in both specialties. From 1968 to 1970, Roald served as chief of the U.S. Army Pulmonary Disease Service in Landstuhl, Germany, and as consultant in pulmonary disease for the U.S. Army in Europe. After returning stateside, Roald held positions as chief of the Pulmonary Disease Service at Fitzsimons and adjunct associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. From 1970 to 1980, he served as consultant to the U.S. Surgeon General. While serving in the Army, he held the rank of colonel in the Medical Corps, and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and Legion of Merit.
In 1980, Roald retired from army service and joined the medical school faculty at the University of North Dakota, where he was a professor and chairman of the Pulmonary Diseases Division and director of the Internal Medicine Residency program. He held memberships in the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society, American College of Physicians, American Thoracic Society and American Medical Association, and he was a fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians. He retired in 1996 as professor emeritus of medicine.
Roald was a lifelong Lutheran and an active participant as a member of the many congregations he joined during his travels through life. He had a rich bass voice that he shared as a member of many church choirs. He was an avid sports fan, and his hobbies included golf, tennis, travel and, of course, an abiding interest in all things Luther College. Roald remained passionately involved with Luther throughout his life, and received a Distinguished Service Award from that institution in 1979 and was inducted into the Luther College President's Council as a life member in 2013. He represents one generation of the four in his family who have had members graduate from Luther.
Above all else, Roald loved his family, and they him. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Ruth Nelson of Coralville; four children, Douglas Nelson of Decorah, Iowa, Susan Collins (James) of Coralville, Iowa, Jennifer Nordgaard (Michael) of Portland, Ore., and Carolyn Romine (Aaron) of Centennial, Colo.; six grandchildren, Kathleen and Virginia Collins, Erik and Luke Nordgaard and Hans and Lars Romine; as well as many members of his extended family and friends.
Roald was preceded in death by his parents, Allen and Myrtle Nelson; and two sisters, Jean Everly and Dorothy Nelson.
A service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Iowa City. He will be interred with military honors in the National Cemetery at Rock Island, Ill. Memorials may be made to Luther College (Nelson Family Scholarship), the University of Iowa Foundation (Class of 1958 Medical Scholarship) or the American Lung Association.
The family wishes to thank the physicians and staff of the UIHC for their kind and excellent care.
Online condolences may be made at www.lensingfuneral.com.