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Wayne Nelson

Died in January 2014


Jo’s Obituary and Tribute

 

Wayne would be surprised and pleased to know that all of you are here (whether physically or in spirit), and to read what you have written about his impact. Many profound thanks you to you all.

 

Wayne was born on a farm in South Dakota, and went to school in the very small town of Gary, South Dakota. He was active in the Methodist youth group. He was one of only a few in his class who went to university, at Dakota Wesleyan University. He majored in Sociology and Religion.

 

In university, he encountered Joe Slicker in a course, which changed his life. After some experiments in anti-racism and social action in Rockford, Illinois, he joined the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago in 1970.

 

His assignments began with property management in 5th City, walking children to school and being a camp staff in New Orleans one summer. Then he was assigned to the leadership team in St. Louis, Missouri in the fall of 1972.

 

In September of 1972, we saw each other across a crowded room at a celebration in the Green Bean Room in the Kemper Building in Chicago, and both of us knew immediately that this was the one.

 

What I appreciated from the moment I met him was his quiet depth. It made me slow down and think. I think our styles complemented each other, and we were a team at work and as a family.

 

When we first decided to marry, we did a journey wall of our lives, the first 20 years to get to know a bit about each other, and the next 60 together. The universe decided to change that plan, but we had more than 40 rich and adventurous years together around the planet.

 

The title of the journey wall was “Passionate Steadfastness in Service”. We joked that Wayne brought the steadfastness, and I brought the passionate part.

 

We married in March of 1973. From St. Louis we went to Peoria, Illinois where Aaron was born, then Bayad, Beni Suef, Egypt, then Ijede, Lagos State, Nigeria, then Asherton, Texas where Tim was born, Houston for a few months, Murrin Bridge, Australia, Sydney and then Chicago for a few months, Woburn Lawn, Jamaica, and finally Toronto for the last 27 years.

 

Wayne’s practical skills were very useful in village development. He taught himself woodworking in various projects, especially Murrin Bridge.

 

He found real joy in facilitating with First Nations communities, particularly Mohawk and Inuit. More recently in Toronto he worked on all of our IT needs, creating an early online facilitation tool, creating and maintaining the website, and doing tech roles in online training. And several years ago he began working on a research project to pull together the underlying philosophy behind ICA methods to ensure that the depth of them was preserved and that they could grow and be passed along to the next generation.

 

At home, besides co-parenting, cleaning, cooking, baking, and renovating, he put his artistic and creative spirit to work making furniture, woodcarvings, stained glass, and things made of leather.

 

He died in his workshop, working on a beautiful artistic table top made out of a piece of pine rescued from a dumpster.

 

I want to tell you two stories that illustrate different sides of the Wayne I knew.

 

One year he went back to Egypt to visit his close friend and Egyptian brother, Mahmoud, in Minya. On the train on the way back to Cairo, he was in 3rd class with other rural Egyptian men including an imam, sitting on the floor in the space between train cars. His beard and mustache made him look very Egyptian, and foreigners never ride 3rd class. They were speaking Arabic about religion, and he was listening. Suddenly they turned to him and asked (in Arabic), “Are you Christian or Muslim?” He thought for a second and responded, “There is only one God” in Arabic. They were astonished for a moment and then included him in their conversation about profound meaning, which promptly expanded.

 

The second story: One year we went together to an IAF conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The day after the conference, we went to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s western home. Every single thing in Taliesin is designed with focused intention. His eyes widened, he got very silent, and I could see that he was in ecstasy as he walked around. He turned to me and said, “I have just realized that every minute of my life I am designing something! Sometimes I draw them, and sometimes I don’t, but my head is always full of designs!” As he made the furniture and other objects in our house, I could see the careful thinking through of design.

 

I am grateful to the universe for Wayne’s life and the 40 years we had together.

 

Jo Nelson

 

 

 

 


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