Ralph Clifford Nelson was born April 26, 1940 in Clear Lake, South Dakota. He was the youngest son of Clifford James Nelson and Margaret Marie (Beutler) Nelson. Ralph grew up on the family farm and graduated from Clear Lake High school in 1958. He served in the National Guard (1958-1963), where he trained and worked as a mechanic. In 1966 he moved to Minneapolis and worked for Suburban Chevrolet. It was in Nebraska where he would meet and marry his wife JoAnn (Johnstone) Nelson on March 28, 1969. Ralph and JoAnn moved to Pine River in 1969 where Ralph went to work as a Service Manager for Pine Motor Company. He worked at Pine Motors until 1978 when he purchased the Chevrolet dealership in Longville, Minnesota. While living in Longville they made their home on the shores of beautiful Mule Lake. They owned and operated Nelson Auto until 1991. Ralph and JoAnn had purchased some land in Pahrump, Nevada and built a second home there where they would go during the winter months. In the Spring they would return, and Ralph would work for Pine Motors as a salesman. Every spring when he was just about to come back to work, they would put an ad in the Echoland Shopper stating “Ralphie’s back” to let his customers know as many preferred to only work with him.
Ralph was a member of the American Legion Post 613 in Pine River for 51 years and also served as a past Commander. He was a volunteer for the Pine River Fire Department and was Assistant Fire Chief until he had to give up his position when he moved to Longville.
Ralph was preceded in death by his parents; sisters, Bernice Stout and LaVonne Pritchard. He is survived by his wife of 51 years, JoAnn (Johnstone) Nelson; daughter, Tricia (Nelson) Drexler and her husband, John; and son, Ryan Nelson. Ralph and JoAnn have three grandchildren: Mikaela Nelson, Kristen Drexler and Jacob Drexler. Ralph is also survived by his niece, Sonja and her husband, Merton “Bud” Bettendorf; nephews, Mitchell Pritchard and Mark Pritchard; and several great nieces and nephews.
A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 PM on Thursday, August 20, at Kline Funeral Home, Pine River. A private family service will be held.
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