Obituary and Condolences

Dr. Roald Allen Nelson ret. Col.

October 22, 1931 August 18, 2018
Dr. Roald Allen Nelson ret. Col.
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Obituary for Dr. Roald Allen Nelson ret. Col.

Dr. Roald Allen Nelson, Colonel, U.S. Army, retired, of Coralville, Iowa, passed away Saturday, August 18, 2018. He died at home, surrounded by family. Roald was born on October 22, 1931, in Clifton, Texas, the son of 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 1000 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 MD 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, Colorado, earning board certification in both specialties. From 1968–70, 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 1970–80, 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 the 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, 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 life-long 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 that 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, IA, Susan Collins (James) of Coralville, IA, Jennifer Nordgaard (Michael) of Portland, OR, and Carolyn Romine (Aaron) of Centennial, CO; 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 11:00 AM, Friday, September 21, 2018, at Christ the King Lutheran Church, Iowa City. He will be interred with military honors in the National Cemetery at Rock Island, Illinois. 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.

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Previous Events





11:00 AM 9/21/2018 11:00:00 AM
Christ the King Lutheran Church

325 Mormon Trek Boulevard
Iowa City, IA 52246

Christ the King Lutheran Church
325 Mormon Trek Boulevard Iowa City 52246 IA
United States

Cemetery Details


Rock Island National Cemetery Final Resting Place

Bldg, 118, Rock Island Arsenal
Rock Island, IL 61299

Bldg, 118, Rock Island Arsenal Rock Island 61299 IL
United States

Memorial Contribution

American Lung Association

55 W. Wacker Drive, Suite 1150
Chicago, IL 60601

Luther College: Nelson Family Scholarship

700 College Drive
Decorah, IA 52101

University of Iowa Foundation: Class of 1958 Medicine Scholarship

P. O. Box 4550
Iowa City, IA 52240

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