Ronnie Lee Nelson would rather take a beating than go back to factory work. In his 20-plus years of over-the-road trucking, he preferred to listen to the whine of the tires rather than the radio. He always had a smile for the waitress and found little joy in retirement. Ronnie went to meet his maker Aug.t 17, 2019.
Born June 17, 1954, in Hutchinson, Ronnie moved around a lot as a kid. Father, Dale, chased work in the oil fields until bad feet steered him to barber school. They settled in Moundridge when Mom, Victoria (Petersen), took over the restaurant. There, Ronnie and twin brother Rick made names for themselves on Friday nights.
A gentle soul, Ronnie was “out to hurt somebody” when he put on a football helmet. A state title was in sight before the sudden death of his father.
Months later, Ronnie married the homecoming queen, took a job at the factory and started a family. He’d spend the rest of his life working hard not to get in a hurry.
Trucking was the only job Ronnie could live with. He’d earn the handle “Step-n-a-Half” when his boss ribbed him for being at least a step behind the other drivers. He’d hated school but his log books, like his handwriting, were meticulous.
In the kitchen, Ronnie was a connoisseur of the common: His meatloaf revered, his tater repertoire impeccable. Bringing a big appetite made you part of the family.
Pan-o-Cakes came off the griddle one at a time. If all the kiddos’ plates were full, Ronnie wolfed his down with butter and sugar.
Kids remember he would play the steering wheel like a piano while the whole van sang “Swingin.” He’d urge the pitcher to “Throw the dark one by ‘em!” or the batter to “Put a stamp on it, make ‘em MAIL it back!”
Ronnie was slow to judge and happy to share. He left still wishing for one more trip to Yankton Dam where Grandpa Nelson taught him to fish.
Ronnie is grieved by wife Lois Van Cleave of Newton; siblings, Rick Nelson of Victorville, Calif., Denise Davis-Jordan of Topeka, and Norman “Rusty” Nelson of Canby, Ore.; kiddos, Traci Lyn Flores-Suderman of Newton, Andrea Lee Nelson of Kansas City, Mo., Dietrich Wayne Flores of Andover and Brandon Dale Nelson of North Newton; three grand-kiddos; and a heap of nieces and nephews.
Ronnie asked for no services. Donations to the “Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism: Wildtrust” can be made in his honor. Phone 620-672-5911 or enter “Ronnie Lee Nelson memorial fund” in the memo line and send to: Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, 512 SE 25th Ave., Pratt, KS 67124-8174.