Cover photo for Ronald J. Nelson's Obituary
Ronald J. Nelson Profile Photo

Ronald J. Nelson

February 14, 1945 — May 4, 2024

Devils Lake

Ronald J. Nelson

Ronald J. “Smiley” Nelson passed away on Saturday, May 4, 2024 surrounded by his family at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, ND. He was 79. 

There will be a gathering of family and friends at the Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake, North Dakota on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. with a Scripture Service and time of remembrance at 7:00 p.m. 

Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday, May 22, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Devils Lake with burial in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery. 

Ronald Joseph Nelson, son of Helmer R. and Genevieve R. (Scharf) Nelson, was born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1945 in Devils Lake, North Dakota.  He attended Morris Township #3 School through the 8th grade and graduated from Devils Lake Central High School with the class of 1963. He continued his education at the State School of Science in Wahpeton, receiving degrees in welding and automotive technology.  

He moved out to the West Coast and worked at the Seattle Airport for a time, then lived and worked in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Detroit, Michigan. He returned to the Lake Region area, working for local farmers. While combining a wheat field, he met his precious Deborah Mikkelsen who was driving the grain truck for her Dad. 

Ron and Deb were united in marriage on June 11, 1971 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Devils Lake. They soon moved to Colorado where Ron worked in a welding shop. After 3 years, Ron’s dad became ill so they moved back to Devils Lake to help out the family. In 1980, Ron started his own concrete business, RJ Nelson Concrete Construction, and was the owner operator for 35 years, retiring in 2014. 

In 1989, the family moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin and Ron worked as a concrete finisher for Union Local #213 out of Antioch, Illinois. They returned to Devils Lake in 1992 and continued the operation of RJ Nelson Concrete Construction, calling Devils Lake, North Dakota their home once again. 

Ron loved to work, even though it was hard, physical labor, long hours and weekends. He took pride in the finished product. When he was able to take some time off, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, gambling, antique cars and pickups. The family loved many trips to Montana to visit family. They enjoyed cruises to Alaska, Panama, Hawaii, Columbia and Aruba to name a few.  As the children were growing up, Ron was working to provide for the family, but when the grandchildren came along, he was able to enjoy watching them, and attend their many activities and special events. They were his pride and joy. 

Ron never met a stranger. He could visit with anyone. Ron’s message was always one of encouragement, hope, and strength as he helped so many others to overcome addiction as he celebrated over 45 years of sobriety. 

Ron was a life member of St. Joseph Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus and Odd Fellows. 

Ron was a man of faith, loved his family with his whole heart and treasured his many friends. He will be so very missed. 

Ron is survived by his wife of nearly 53 years; daughter Melissa Nelson Lange, Fort Atkinson, WI; sons Jason (Deb) Nelson, Bismarck ND, Eric Nelson, also of Bismarck and Cory (Jacinda) Nelson of Devils Lake, grandchildren Ben Pawlowski, Heather (Kevin) Jones, Samantha Crabbe (Spencer), Alex Crabbe, Faith Nelson (Casey), Hope Nelson: Owen Nelson, Phoenix Nelson: Hannah Nelson (Gavun), Joseph Nelson; great grandson Kyler Pawlowski;  sister-in-law Carol Nelson of Whitefish MT; nieces and nephew Sara Nelson (Tim), Jeremy Nelson and Rachel (Tate) Rocksond; great niece Liv Rocksond; father-in-law Bert Mikkelsen, Devils Lake; sisters-in-law Barbara (John) Mikkelsen-Gross, Cindy (Tony) Heidrich; brother-in-law Jim (Leslie) Mikkelsen and other dear nieces, nephews and cousins. 

He was reunited with his Lord, parents Helmer and Genevieve, brother Gary A. Nelson, son-in-law Carl Joe Lange, daughter-in-law Leslie Renfrow Nelson, mother-in-law Barbara Mikkelsen, brother-in-law John Mikkelsen and special family friend Dick Courtney. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Ronald J. Nelson, please visit our flower store.

Past Services

Gathering of Family and Friends

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

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Prayer Service and Time of Remembrance

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

7:00 - 8:00 pm (Central time)

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Mass of Christian Burial

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Starts at 10:00 am (Central time)

Burial in Devils Lake Cemetery

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