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Michael G. Nelson

January 16, 1948 July 21, 2020
Michael G. Nelson
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Obituary for Michael G. Nelson

Michael Glen Nelson passed away July 21, 2020 at Kewanee Care. Michael Glen Nelson was born in Kewanee, Illinois on January 16, 1948, the only child of Glen and Charlotte Nelson. Charlotte would die shortly after Mike’s birth, and Mike would be raised by his maternal grandmother, Mildred, and his step-grandfather, Arlie McKeever.

Mike attended Wethersfield schools in Kewanee, Illinois, where he was one of the most popular, best dressed, and best dancers (the Stroll, Twist, Mashed Potatoes, Hully Gully) in the school. He excelled in sports (earning varsity letters in football and track). His senior year he earned All-Conference honors in football and led the Blackhawk Conference in scoring. Mike, who had a beautiful bass voice, sang in both the boys’ and mixed choruses (and in several quartets and octets), played the saxophone in the school band, served on student council, and was elected senior class president. He was the first person in his class to have his own car—a rusty, maroon, 2-door, 1951 Studebaker Coupe that used almost as much oil as gas. Somewhere during his high school years, he acquired the nickname that would stick with him the rest of his life, “Spike.”

After graduating WHS in 1966 he attended several schools, including: Illinois State University, Canton Community College, and Black Hawk Junior College. In 1967 he joined the Illinois National Guard where he attained the rank of Master Sergeant (E-7).

In 1969 he worked for a series of finance companies and credit unions, work that would take him to Rantoul, Illinois, as a loan officer at the Chanute Air Force Base Credit Union, where he met his future wife, Toni Craig.

The two began what would be their 42-year marriage on Valentine’s Day 1974. They moved three times (Chicago-Kewanee-back to Rantoul), they would have two children, Michael Clay Nelson and Ashleigh Nelson-Coartney, and Mike would start a successful small business, “Nelson Carpet Cleaning.” Upon acquiring an additional business, Champaign Maintenance Service, he changed the name of his company to “CMS,” which he sold in 1993. He then worked as a manager for AutoZone before accepting a position in Customer Service with AT&T, where he worked until his retirement in 2009.

In 1999 he and Clay converted a building space on the campus of Chanute Air Force Base into a community theater and formed the Rantoul Theater Group. RTG performed numerous theater productions (comedies, dramas, and musicals). Mike served as house manager for the theater until 2008, and the theater has remained in continuous operation to this day. It was in his role as a witness in a courtroom scene from To Kill a Mockingbird that Mike delivered his only onstage line: “I can’t remember anything.” Mike loved sports and was a diehard Chicago Bears fan and converted to being a Chicago Cubs fan after starting out with the White Sox. He and his dad (a lifetime St. Louis Cardinals fan) enjoyed decades of trading put-downs of the other one’s favorite team.

Mike was a devoted husband, a patient and loving father and grandfather, and a kind, thoughtful, and generous human being. He listened well and spoke softly. When he was riled, which was rare, he was fearless (sometimes recklessly so). His dry wit and ability to turn a clever phrase made him an excellent public speaker and a delightful companion. He had friends because he was a friend, to many.

Mike is survived by his two children, Clay and Ashleigh, his sisters: Gail Peart and Dianna Ograzolek and brother, Daniel “Danny” Nelson; three grandchildren: Ethan A. Shaw, Declan Nelson, and Rhys Nelson; and one great grandchild, Beckham Lane Shaw. He was preceded in death by his mother, his grandson Colin Nelson, his parents, his step-mom, Joan Nelson, and his wife, Toni.

Mike was 72 years old and will be missed by everyone who had the honor, privilege, and joy of knowing him. There will be a celebration of life announced at a later time.

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