Ronald Carl Nelson
- September 8, 2021
Ronald Carl Nelson -fondly known to many as “Uncle Ronnie”-died at home in Northbrook, Illinois on August 31, 2021. He was 81.
Ron was born August 14,1940 and raised in Edgebrook, Il., by his parents-Charlotte Moore, a dedicated housewife, and Roy Nelson, who owned and operated a butcher shop, Nelson’s Meats, on Devon Avenue. A middle child, Ron adored (and relentlessly teased) his older sister, Janine, and younger sister, Judy. The Nelson household was always a welcoming hub, bustling with family celebrations filled with Swedish meatballs, Bondost cheese and glögg.
Ron was a gamer. He played baseball for Thillens Little League, a storied league for only “the cream of the crop.” At Taft High School, he wanted to go out for football, but legend has it that Charlotte, fearing her wiry boy might get hurt, told the coach that Ron had a heart murmur. At age 16, Ron met Joan DelBianco, another blue-eyed mischief-maker who would later become his wife. The pair fell madly in love but parted ways so Ron could attend college, learn to make a living, and avoid having to survive on what he liked to call “early orange crate.”
But Northern Illinois University couldn’t contain Ron’s irrepressible spirit, and after one year he sought warmer climes and saltier adventures. With a small crew of childhood friends, Ron spent the next 18 months working, fishing and lollygagging through Florida and the Caribbean. Ron eventually finished college at Adams State University in Alamosa, Co., where he studied economics (and, of course, fished).
After school, Ron logged four years in the U.S. National Guard-including duty at the riotous 1968 Democratic National Convention-while cutting his teeth in the mortgage-banking business and reconnecting with his old flame, Joan. The couple married in 1969, at the Edgebrook Community Church, and two years later, their son, Brett Anthony, came along.
Ron had a knack for the real estate business and a taste for deal-making. He spent 15 years with Great Lakes Mortgage Corporation, in downtown Chicago, before transplanting much of his team to nearby Draper and Kramer, Inc. There he and longtime colleague John Davey built a formidable residential-mortgage operation, and both eventually served as presidents of the Illinois Mortgage Bankers Association. On many weekends Ron also developed and managed apartment buildings with dear friend and fellow fisherman, Alex Nimko.
Ron worked hard-and played even harder. He was an avid Blackhawks fan and, for 50 years, a proud member of Ridgemoor Country Club, in Harwood Heights, Il., where he won various titles, anchored gin tables and made countless friends. He relished annual fishing excursions with his son, Brett, in Key West and Costa Rica, and in later years enjoyed winters in Stuart, Fla., where he and Joan owned a home on Willoughby Golf Course. Ron’s soundtrack was Jimmy Buffett and Frank Sinatra. And he loved Chicago.
With his laughing eyes, flashing smile and trademark storytelling, Ron was the life of the party and a lifeline when called upon. He was a devoted father, doting uncle, fierce competitor and towering presence-hence the name, Uncle Ronnie.
Ron is survived by his wife, Joan; son, Brett; sisters, Janine Radke and Judy DeStefano; and daughter-in-law, Blair Ellis. He will be greatly missed.