Many gather to pay respects to Orem mayor Joe Nelson

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    By MATTHEW ASTLE

    Hundreds of friends, family, and co-workers filled the Canyon View Stake Center for the funeral of Orem Mayor Joe Nelson Monday. Nelson died of lymphatic cancer early Thursday morning at the age of 67.

    Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles presided at the funeral and read a letter from the First Presidency directly addressed to Nelson’s widow, Marjorie.

    “We are saddened indeed to learn of the passing of your husband, and express to you and to all of your family our sincere condolences,” the letter read. “We pray you will discover new meaning to the Savior’s promise, ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you.'”

    Joe Nelson was born November 20, 1931 in Tooele, Tooele County. He graduated from BYU in 1955 and received a master’s degree from New York University in 1956. His professional career was spent with J.C. Penney. He was named the Provo/Orem Chamber of Commerce “Businessman of the Year” in 1990.

    Nelson served in various church callings throughout his life, including bishop, president of the BYU 3rd Stake, and president of the California Santa Rosa Mission.

    A throng of Nelson’s missionaries, filling nearly a third of the chapel seats, sang “Called to Serve” in Nelson’s own particular style. They remembered their president as a friend, a teacher and a leader.

    “He could just see right through you,” said Kristy Lacey, who served as a missionary under Nelson. “He always knew what you were thinking, what was hard.”

    Nelson was hospitalized in April to undergo treatment for his cancer. In the meantime, the city of Orem continued under the leadership of the mayor pro tem, an office which rotates among City Councilmembers as a backup for the mayor.

    “He was a man with integrity, a man with deep-rooted convictions, a leader that cared about his citizens in Orem, cared about people, young and old,” said Steven Heinz, current mayor pro tem.

    City Councilmember Joseph Andersen, a BYU student who will serve as mayor pro tem later this fall, took leave of the touring BYU Folk Ensemble in Canada in order to attend the funeral. Upon meeting fellow Councilmember Bill Peperone at the funeral, the two expressed their grief and condolences in a long, quiet embrace.

    “I felt like coming on the Council, he really took me under his wing. He’s a father figure,” Andersen said.

    The City Council will appoint an interim mayor within 30 days, and a new permanent mayor will be elected in November, said an Orem City representative. With an active mayor, the mayor pro tem’s responsibilities will be much more limited, only stepping up when the mayor is out of town or otherwise unable to fulfill his duties.

    Orem City Manager Jim Reams told of a special fast by the City Council and city staff three weeks ago.

    “At that time we all had the same impression. As much as we wanted Joe Nelson here to serve as the leader of this community, the Lord wanted to call him home,” Reams said.

    Nelson’s love for children was demonstrated by the one thing his grandchildren all remembered about their grandpa.

    “He always had candy to give to his grandkids,” said Chris Nelson.

    “Werther’s,” added Paul Nelson, another grandson.

    Nelson’s grandchildren sang “We’ll Bring the World His Truth” as part of the program. When they reached the final chorus, most of the older grandchildren paused in their singing to wipe the tears from their eyes.

    Tears and smiles were common as Nelson’s loved ones mourned his loss, but celebrated his freedom from mortality.

    Nelson’s bishop, Lee Perry, said, “We all loved Joe. What is most important to remember is that Joe loved the Savior.”

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