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An editorial in the Aug. 21 Tomahawk Leader:
It’s hard to picture Tomahawk without Buck Nelson.
He’s been a modern-day “founding father figure” for this city since long before we arrived here as newspaper publishers 25 years ago. His business intuition and innovation, along with a compassionate heart have helped form and direct this community.
Many a head was left shaking when Buck bought property north of the river and then built a business there. But Buck knew what he was doing. His Nelson’s County Market subsequently underwent numerous expansions and thrives today.
Buck believed in his community and tirelessly served in a leadership capacity, including 32 years, from 1964-96, on the Common Council; 16 of those years as council president. Just look at his obituary to get some feeling for his other involvement and tenure in organizations, and the awards that followed.
He also was a compassionate man who helped behind the scenes. He didn’t seek the limelight, but had a vision and determination that led people forward.
We remember him quietly sitting in the crowd at a recent Tomahawk Together community round table, hoping to help make a difference in the lives of our young people. His interest in this city and its future never waned.
Our respect for his vision and actions is not alone. What follows are just some of the thoughts from others:
•Bob Lee: Current Tomahawk mayor and a then-freshman member of the Common Council who served with Buck in the early 1980s – “He was the quietest, kindest person I ever met.” Buck mentored Bob when he was first on the council. “He always was the quiet gentleman.” Civic-wise he was extremely supportive of all council actions, Lee said. “You listened to how he voted and what he said. He was a quiet leader. … You just had to respect his opinion.”
•Herb Sosinsky: Retired school administrator and former member of the council while Buck was president – “He was a very reasonable and patient leader.” Herb felt they accomplished a lot at that time, and Buck was always open to ideas. Buck did not hesitate to take new ideas into consideration and leave them on the table, Sosinsky said.
•Don Daenicke: Served 10 years on the council while Buck was president – “He was a very good man … an outstanding man in my book.” He never said a cross word. Daenicke noted they redid Main Street with new lighting and sidewalks during their time working together.
•Rod Greil: Served on City Council with him – Buck was a great guy, who was always willing to give to any group. Rod noticed Buck never missed a funeral – “but he knew everyone in town,” he said. “He was a good-hearted person.”
•Annette Daigle Stewart: She served six years on the council with him – She described him as “a great guy.” He was “a real angel” to many. Annette recalls how when she and her first husband, Al, had apartments above their business, Buck would help house and feed women who came from abusive homes, getting them groceries and appliances, “everything they needed” to make it on their own. When Al died, Buck arrived with plates of food long before the funeral.
While on the council he had an excellent memory about the inner workings of the city,” Annette said. Anything you wondered about, you’d go to Buck, she noted. “He was a very good listener.” He knew how he planned to vote. He studied his council packet.
At church he “gave out communion until the end when he could hardly walk. I think it meant so much for him to give to the people,” Annette observed.
•Paul Garner: Current city clerk-treasurer – Buck was council president when Garner was named clerk. He always could see both sides of every discussion, Garner says. He was an excellent history source for that perspective of the Tomahawk community. “He was very concerned about the community – all the community.” When plans to add the ice arena surfaced at SARA Park, Buck was the first donor and his contribution was significant, Garner noted.
•Fran Seroogy: Friend, long-time city attorney – “He always thought about the city first.” He was very diligent in his work for the city. He had a calming influence. “Just a great businessman who made personal contacts with his customers. He took real pride in the business.” Fran describes Buck as “an efficient, calm man – a friendly competitor.”
•John Kromm: Tomahawk Ben Franklin, knew him through business and council interactions – Describes Buck as an innovator who liked to be ahead of his time. “His donations were so instrumental at SARA Park. He never wanted accolades. He just did it because it was the right thing to do. He did so much giving back to the community and he never asked for special recognition but readily deserved it. I’ll remember him for that. He did the most he could to make Tomahawk a special place.”
•Kay Salewske: She and husband, Dan, knew him on all levels, from family, friends, serving on city council to business-wise. Dan and Buck’s son, Bob Nelson, were in the same graduating class and Dan’s sister married Buck’s wife’s brother – “ He touched probably everyone in this town; every life in this town,” Kay said. “Buck was resolute in what he was doing. His presence was not intrusive … from his flannel shirts … He was a real person – a real person. He didn’t put on airs. He truly thought about everyone. … from buying some kid’s cow, chicken or pig at the (county) fair to the attendance of a Nelson at every funeral. He was a real presence in this town.
“He was a very charitable person,” seen, Kay says, in how he asked that instead of getting flowers for his funeral, people give donations to charitable causes.
“He was outspoken, with a long-range look at things. He thought long-term – always, whether it was personal, family or community. He had views and ideas. He affected so many lives in little ways and big ways.
“He was one of those rare ones,” she stated.
A message at the funeral from Buck’s wife, Therese, said, “He truly was one of a kind. He touched the lives of so many people. He will always have a special place in our hearts.”
Yes, there is a hole in Tomahawk and in many hearts these days.
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