Nelson, Gerard (Rod) L., Commander U.S. Navy (Ret.), 96, successfully completed his last tour of duty on this planet and was called to his heavenly home in the early morning hours of July 6, 2021, where he now is reunited with the love of his life and wife of 46 years, Anna May Berry Nelson. Also joining in the celestial reunion party are his parents, Louis Paul Nelson and Flora Giorgio Nelson and his sister, Mae Jocelyn Nelson Buckner. He is survived by his son L. Paul Nelson II (Lee), his daughters Leslie Ann Nelson Pereira (Charles), Kathryn Berry Nelson Sarver (Tim), and Laura Nelson Kallestad (Mike), and his grandchildren Jeb Sarver (Samantha), Amanda Sarver (Shawn), Benjamin Sarver (Libby), Zachary Pereira, Katie Pereira, Anna Kallestad, Joseph Kallestad, Katie Turlington, five great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Rod was born in Staten Island, NY, on March 30, 1925, and at a young age moved with his family to Bath, Maine. He always considered the mid-coast Maine area to be his home. He attended Morse High School and Fryeburg Academy. He then graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in the wartime class of 1943-2. Too young to serve, his father had to grant permission for Rod to join the USCG-Merchant Marine as an engineer. During the war he served on four ships providing ammunition, food, and other essentials to U.S. troops and allied countries. He loved the work but he disliked “being on a ship that couldn’t fire back at the enemy.” In 1946, Rod accepted his commission to the U.S. Navy as an Ensign. Over the next 25 years he served on several ships including destroyers, amphibious assault ships, LSDs and guided missile cruisers. His land-based assignments included Auburn University, Ft. Ord, California, Yorktown Naval Weapons Station, Bahrain Island in the Persian Gulf, and the Pentagon. He also served as Port Services Officer for the Naval Station Norfolk, and his last tour was as the Executive Officer for the Naval Station Norfolk. He retired from the Navy in 1971. During his service, he was awarded many decorations, medals, badges, commendations, citations and campaign ribbons. Rod was also a Mason and a member of Solar Star Lodge #14 A.F. & A.M, Bath, Maine.
Following his distinguished service in the Navy, Rod remained in Norfolk, Virginia, and was employed by QED Systems, Inc., as well as Old Dominion University where he was assistant director of ODU’s physical plant.
In 1996, Rod lost his beloved wife and favorite golf partner, Anna May, following a long battle with cancer. Together they raised four children, golfed, bowled, traveled, gardened, and loved each other, their home and their grandchildren.
Rod proudly dedicated his life to the service of his country. To those who knew him well, he was a rascal and raconteur, a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, uncle, jack-of-all-trades, a good neighbor, and a devoted friend.
He will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors at a date to be announced.
Our family is deeply grateful to Phil and Rachel, Mike and Beverly; “good neighbors” does not begin to describe all they did for him; to his caregivers, Yolanda, Anastassia, and Tatiana, who put their hearts into their care for him; and to all of his family and friends for enriching his life.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be directed to the “Cdr. G. L. & Anna Nelson Endowed Scholarship” at Maine Maritime Academy.
********************* A Message from Amanda Sarver, Granddaughter of Gerard Nelson*********************
You know that song, “My Way” sung by Frank Sinatra? It plays in my mind when I think about my Grandfather. It has for years, but today it is louder as he left his earthly body on July 6 to be reunited with my Grandmother.
I can’t do justice to what my Pupup meant to me, to us. He was surely one of a kind and the world is dimmer for having lost such a spark. I’ll just tell it the way I know…
Commander Gerard/Gerardo “Rod” Lewis Nelson was a magnificent storyteller with the memory of an elephant. He lived to be 96 years young and filled those years with adventures, mischief, and love. He took on the world with fierce, Italian passion (and sometimes wrath). He and his beloved sister spent his boyhood on Staten Island “when it was really something” and then in Maine, where he met my grandmother in high school.
The love my grandparents shared is the kind from storybooks. He shared with me once that when he would be away at sea, they’d talk to the moon as if they were speaking to one another and he continued to do so after she passed. Knowing that they are reunited brings some joy in the face of such a difficult loss. He kept her memory alive and spoke of her endlessly. His love for her never faded.
He said she was the better half, the glue, the sun that the planets orbited around. He said that while he appreciated the thanks for veterans, he believed he was just doing his job. It was my grandmother who made the sacrifices and she should be thanked.
Together they built a family of four children, eight grandchildren, and now five great-grandchildren. They lived in many places, each child born in a different state and one in Bahrain! Among vacations in Maine and other visits, we would reunite every year for Christmas, all descending on their home in Norfolk to celebrate the previous year, the holiday, and above all, family.
He was a jack of all trades and a master of many. He was a U.S. Navy retired Commander who served in three wars. He was a tireless worker who knew not how to “do nothing.” A true handyman, a traveler, a gardener, a bowler, a golfer, an active member of his community, a jokester, a good neighbor and a great friend to many. He “fought City Hall” until he couldn’t anymore, always passionate about what was right. He believed any job worth doing was worth doing well. And they were all worth doing.
He was generous. He gave to organizations he cared about including the American Cancer Society and there’s an endowment/ scholarship in his and my grandmother’s name at Maine Maritime Academy, where he attended.
He could be stubborn. He once tried to hold two naval ships together with his bare hands and lost part of his finger doing it. He beat cancer in his 80’s and that beautiful hair grew back. He did yard work, roof repair, gutter cleaning, you name it, well into his 90’s. He also lived in his home until the very end.
Never the first to leave a party, he outlived the majority of his friends. He was affectionately nicknamed “Gabby” for his chatter on the diamond as a catcher. Whether you knew him as Gerardo, Rod, Roddy, Dad, Pupup, Gramps, Uncle Rod, Commander Nelson, or Gabby, you were lucky to have known him. If he liked you, he let you know, and you could bask in the glow of his warmth and praise.
A family man, with an *oh so big heart*, he found great joy in being a grandfather and we all have various stories…Of his heroics; pulling us out of the Bay. His teachings; in his workshop, crabbing, in the garden, or life in general. His sense of humor; hilarious stories. His generosity; one to save and one to spend. His devotion; showing up for every milestone he could.
He loved us fiercely. “I love you too, kid.”
I simply cannot do him justice in a few paragraphs, nor do I want the pressure of trying; he is too big for the page. But please know that he was special and this is a tough loss for our family. He lived a full life and lives on in each of us, but we will miss him dearly. He did it his way and the world is better for it.