1923 – January 28, 2021
Ethel R. Nelson ’48, of Dunlap, Tennessee, was born in 1923 and died Jan. 28, 2021, at the age of 97.
Dr. Nelson was a pathologist, and her husband, Roger T. Nelson ’45, was a surgeon. She and Roger met at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and married in 1946. In 1951, they became missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand. There they raised their three children while working at the Seventh-day Adventist mission hospital.
In addition to being an accomplished pathologist, Dr. Nelson also practiced general medicine and obstetrics in Bangkok. As a part of her work, she started a school of medical technology and trained students from all over Asia.
Dr. Nelson was a loving and beloved mother and always made time for her three children. She planned exciting family trips, which are now treasured familial memories. One such trip consisted of taking bamboo rafts down a river to bring medical care to remote villages.
Their first mission trip to Thailand ended in 1968 when the Drs. Nelson moved their family to Reading, Massachusetts, so their children could attend college in the United States. There she and Roger practiced at New England Memorial Hospital until 1978 when they returned to Bangkok. In 1983, they left Thailand for good after 22 years serving there. They settled in Tennessee.
Dr. Nelson’s research-oriented mind was ever curious, whether working on a medical mystery like dengue fever or with Chinese characters. She was a prolific writer. She wrote many published research papers and published many books on her passion—ancient Chinese characters and their relationship to the Genesis story. She also authored health books, a biography of Denis Burkitt, MD, and wrote and illustrated storybooks for her grandchildren.
Dr. Nelson was an energetic, creative, and optimistic woman who was known for her big heart. She and her husband helped many people over the course of their lives through their medical work, encouragement, generosity, and philanthropy.
She is survived by her three children, Laurel Damsteegt, Orlyn Nelson, and Theodore Nelson, and their spouses, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.