Cover photo for Joel E. Nelson's Obituary
1957 Joel 2023

Joel E. Nelson

July 24, 1957 — October 15, 2023

Watertown

 

Joel Nelson, 66, of Watertown, WI, passed away on October 15, 2023, at Jefferson Memory Care, after a brief illness.

Joel was born on July 24, 1957, son of E. John and Ruby Nelson of Suring, WI, Born with Down Syndrome, doctors suggested that Joel be placed in one of the state centers for the mentally handicapped. He was not expected to live beyond his early teen years, His parents were adamant, however, that Joel would be lovingly raised as a valued member of their family. Joel was baptized at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Suring, where he attended Sunday School and was later confirmed. Joel loved family, birthdays, holidays, and spending time at the family cabin on Shay Lake.

In the late 60s, the family moved to Watertown WI, and Joel began to work at Opportunities, Inc. in Fort Atkinson. He developed many new friends among staff and fellow workers during the almost 50 years he worked there. The staff of Opportunities remember Joel as an exceptional, fun-loving, outgoing, hard-working individual, they grew to love during his time with them. He was an active and contributing member of Faith Lutheran Church in Watertown.

Joel was an active member of Special Olympics, competing in track and field, softball, basketball, volleyball, cross country skiing, and bocce ball He was chosen to be a member of the Wisconsin Special Olympics Team for the International Special Olympics competition held in Minneapolis, MN, in 1991. There, competing against individuals from around the world, Joel earned a second-place silver medal in the shot put, a seventh place in the 400-meter relay, and competed in the standing long jump. It was during that event in Minneapolis that the Nelson family was honored as the 1991 Special Olympics United States Family of the Year, and received a special award tribute presented by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Joel lived with his mom and dad until moving to an adult family care home hosted by Sue and Ralph Welter in Fort Atkinson. As Sue recently said, "We all loved Joel and he did much to educate many people about the possibilities of people who have disabilities and how much they can add to everyone's life”. Joel later moved to Jefferson Memory Care and attended the True Comfort Day Program which he loved.

Joel will be missed and remembered by all for his homemade birthday and Christmas cards, and his favorite: Culver's cheeseburger with raw onions, cheese curds, and Sprite. Joel knew his Savior and we rejoice with the knowledge that Joel is now with his Savior face-to-face in heaven.

Joel's parents preceded him in death, as did his sisters, Beth and Gail, and two brothers, Steven and Mark. He is survived by brothers Jon (Shirley) of Watertown, Paul (Susan) of Osseo, David (Nancy) and Timothy of Watertown, and many cousins, nephews, nieces, and friends from all over Wisconsin.

The Nelson family would like to sincerely thank the staff of Opportunities, Inc., Jefferson Memory Care, True Comfort and Rainbow Hospice Care, Sue and Ralph Welter, and all the others who helped make Joel's life one to be remembered and celebrated, and kept him comfortable during his final days.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Rainbow Hospice Care or Special Olympics of Wisconsin

A Funeral Service will be held at 5:00 Pm on Thursday, October 19, 2023, at Faith Lutheran Church with Pastor Seth Hoeppner presiding. Visitation will be held at the church from 4:00 PM until the time of service. An additional service will be held at 2:30 PM on Sunday, October 21, 2023, at the Gruetzmacher Funeral Home of Suring, WI, with Pastor Seth Hoeppner presiding. Visitation will be held from 1:30 PM until the time of service at the funeral home. Joel will be laid to rest at Mt. Olive Cemetery following the service.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Joel E. Nelson, please visit our flower store.
In memory of Joel E. Nelson, please consider making a donation to one of the following charities:

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Thursday, October 19, 2023

4:00 - 5:00 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Service

Thursday, October 19, 2023

5:00 - 6:00 pm (Central time)

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Visitation

Sunday, October 22, 2023

1:30 - 2:30 pm (Central time)

Gruetzmacher Funeral Home & Cremation Services

116 Krueger St, Suring, WI 54174

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Funeral Service

Sunday, October 22, 2023

2:30 - 3:00 pm (Central time)

Gruetzmacher Funeral Home & Cremation Services

116 Krueger St, Suring, WI 54174

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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