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They’re still biking strong

The Nelsons are getting to know Blue Earth on two wheels

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Aug 22, 2021

Judy Nelson, left, and Josh Nelson, right, have gotten to know their new community best through their two-wheeled adventures around Blue Earth. Judy shares Josh simply ‘swoops’ in on his bike to meet new neighbors. They ride together nearly every day.

After sharing a lifetime together, these new neighbors are making their final fresh start in Blue Earth. They invited The Faribault County Register into their home to share coffee, baked goods, stories, and wisdom on Monday, Aug. 16.

What are your names?

“David Nelson, but I’ve been called Josh since my military days,” says Josh.

Josh, a veteran of the Korean War, explains, “When I was stationed in the Philippines, I sang ‘Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho’.” He has been called ‘Josh’ ever since.

His wife answers, “Judy Nelson.”

Will you share your ages?

Judy is 86 years old, and Josh is 90 years old.

“That’s many moons,” he says. “Over one thousand!”

Where are you from?

Both of the Nelsons spent their childhood in the Midwest.

“I’m from Jackson, right down the road from Fairmont,” shares Judy. “I left Jackson at age 18.”

Josh, meanwhile, spent his childhood in Wisconsin.

“I was born in Cadott,” says Josh. He explains he grew up on a dairy farm, which was a much different experience in the 1930s than it would be today.

“I was born on the farm,” Josh shares. “My aunt Selma was my midwife.”

“It was before electricity,” he adds.

How would you describe those places in three words?

“Very great memories,” says Josh, of Cadott.

Judy has similarly fond memories of Jackson.

“Wonderful growing years,” she says.

Why did you leave?

“I was very eager to go to Bible school,” says Judy. She had a friend at Bible camp who was a pastor’s daughter. Her friend said she was planning to attend the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI) in Minneapolis, and encouraged Judy to do the same.

“We decided to room together, and we did,” says Judy.

Josh, meanwhile, did some traveling before he joined Judy at LBI.

“My dad simply said, ‘I don’t have the money to send you to college,’ so you have to go work,” shares Josh, “And that’s what I did.”

Josh spent a few years working in a cheese factory and a steel factory. He even hitchhiked out to North Dakota with a buddy to get a job on a farm.

Eventually, however, Josh enlisted in the military in 1950.

“I was in a rescue squad. I was a parachute rigger,” remembers Josh. He was a member of the army until 1953.

“Then we got the GI bill,” remembers Josh. “I went to school, and didn’t have any debt.”

The bill paid off in more ways than one; it was at school that he met Judy, his future wife of 66 years.

Josh became a pastor following his time at LBI, and he and Judy lived in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as Josh served various congregations.

They also served as missionaries in Brazil for several years, where they learned to speak Portuguese.

How did you find Blue Earth?

“When he (Josh) was finally retired, our daughter pleaded with us to move here,” says Judy. The Nelsons had been living near their other daughter, Susan Wagner, previously.

Josh and Judy make the most of living close to family. They have dinner with their daughter, Randi Rokke, and her husband, Doug, every Sunday.

How would you describe Blue Earth in three words?

Judy says, “Great bicycle rides.”

Josh chooses “very comfortable community” as his three words. 

What do you like to do in Blue Earth?

The Nelsons are avid bikers, and have already become well-known to community members for their daily bike rides around town.

“We’ve gotten to know a lot of people on bike rides,” says Josh.

“Josh is so uninhibited,” adds Judy. “People would be sitting outside, and he would just swoop in there. I was so embarrassed, but we got to know a lot of people that way.”

What do you like to do no matter where you are?

“I love to sew,” says Judy. “I’ll sew, and then I’ll read. I’ll never be bored my whole life doing those things.”

What advice do you have for those who wish to remain active late in life?

“It’s how you feel,” explains Judy. “If you feel healthy, then you keep going.”

She doesn’t discount healthy eating, however.

“I really am a stickler for what we eat. I think we’re eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. We don’t eat a lot of meat,” Judy says.

What is your best parenting advice?

The Nelsons, who have four children, are certainly veteran parents. Their two sons, David (Josh) Nelson and James Nelson, were both born in Brazil, while their daughters, Susan and Randi, were born in the States.

“Love has to be first,” says Judy.

She also adds she feels discipline is necessary in parenting. “I think it’s very important that kids know what they can’t do. They need to know where the line is.”

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed over your lifetime?

“Technology,” Josh answers. “People don’t visit anymore. That’s why I really like to talk to people.”

“I’m thankful for technology,” he adds, “but it can be abused.”

Who did you bring with you to Blue Earth?

Apart from each other, the Nelsons brought their bicycles with them.

What is something about you that would surprise people?

Josh shares some wisdom he heard from a pastor long ago. “If people knew everything you did since you were a child, most of us would die from a heart attack.”

“We all have a few secrets,” he explains.

How do you hope to surprise yourself in the future?

“I don’t,” says Judy, simply. “I’m 86. I’m not going to be surprising myself with anything.”

Do you see a future for yourself in Blue Earth?

“Oh, yes,” says Judy. “Buried and everything.”

“Unless there is a catastrophe, this is our home,” adds Josh.

Are you a Jolly Green Giant or a Sprout?

“I would like to be the Jolly Green Giant,” says Judy. “I’d like to have people say I’m jolly.”

Josh also sees himself as a Jolly Green Giant. “I have a lot of humor, I’d say. I’ve used a lot of humor in my ministry.”

What is your favorite green vegetable?

“String beans,” says Judy.

Josh answers, “I like peas.”

What is your favorite thing to eat that isn’t a vegetable?

“My favorite dessert is vanilla ice cream,” Josh responds. “Either that or pecan pie.”

“I like a baked potato with butter and sour cream,” says Judy.

What are you drinking today?

“Just coffee,” says Judy.

“But I do like a glass of wine,” adds Josh. “People don’t think that pastors drink wine, but they do!”