Cover photo for Richard Nelson's Obituary
1946 Richard 2020

Richard Nelson

December 1, 1946 — December 24, 2020

Funeral Recording

Richard Orrin Nelson passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on December 24, 2020, after fighting a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Richard was born on December 1, 1946 to Paul and Bernice Gardner Nelson in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Rich was known for his kindness and rock solid testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was constantly serving neighbors and caring for his family. He was once given the nickname "ward piano mover.” He cared for his mother, Bernice, for many years. Faith and prayer were principles he always lived, as he frequently gathered his family to share his testimony, read the scriptures, pray, and give and receive priesthood blessings.

Rich grew up in rural eastern Utah—the Uintah Basin. His father, Paul, was so happy to greet him as a baby boy because Paul and Bernice had previously lost three boys at birth. Paul passed away when Rich was just seven years old. Growing up without his dad, Rich and his mom lived with and were loved by many extended family members. As a result, he was always very close to many of his cousins.

Rich was a devoted husband and father. While attending BYU, he was introduced to Joanne Lacey by his cousin, Mike Root. Rich and Joanne fell in love, and Joanne knew they would marry. But Rich was afraid he might be drafted into the Vietnam War, so they weren't married until three years later, on April 12, 1974 in the Salt Lake Temple. Rich always referred to Joanne as his best friend. He adored her and always treated his "Joey" with respect and love. Together, they raised two sons, Trent and Steven. As a father and grandfather, he was always loving and protective. His family meant the world to him. With his family, he loved to camp, go boating at Lake Mead, and take trips to Neola where they would fish at “the beaver pond.” Even at home, he always had a project and taught his kids a strong work ethic and how to fix things on their own.

As a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he served in many callings. He was a full-time missionary in the New England and Maritime Provinces of Canada mission, serving under President Boyd K. Packer. Later in life, he and Joanne served as couple missionaries to a Hispanic ward in West Valley, Utah. He was known as a dedicated home teacher as he brought many closer to the gospel of Jesus Christ through his unwavering kindness, friendship, and service.

He loved old western music and movies. He was an avid BYU Cougar fan. He loved to play racquetball and any sport his two sons were currently learning. "Early to bed and early to rise" was a mantra he embodied. He could fall asleep promptly before 9:30 p.m. (even with company surrounding him) and wake at 5:30 a.m., bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. He exuded positivity as he whistled while he worked and belted out tunes like Bing Crosby's "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive." Working as a Health Care Program Specialist for the Department of Health until his retirement in 2009, he left very early every morning, with the slight scent of Mennen Skin Bracer After Shave and the shuffle of cowboy boots. He was one of the first state employees to "telecommute," working from home so he could care for his mother. Later in life, he loved traveling the world on cruise ships with his sweetheart.

Rich will be missed by many. He is survived by his loving wife of 46 years, Joanne Lacey Nelson; his two children, Trent (Cristi) Nelson and Steven Nelson; eight grandchildren, Zack, Ben, Gabe, Paxton, Lincoln, Audrey, Trevor, and James; his brother, Kent Nelson; and his sister, Diane Babcock. He is preceded in death by his parents, Paul and Bernice Nelson; his brother-in-law, Orel Babcock; his sister-in-law, Sara Mae Nelson; and his three older brothers, who passed away shortly after birth, Charles Phillip Nelson, Ray Nelson, and Roy Nelson.

Due to the current health situation, funeral services will be limited. Extended family and friends are invited to watch the services via a live webcast starting at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 2nd by clicking on the button at the bottom of the page.
Services can also be watched during service or later on either of the following links -


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