Daniel (Dan) Reed Nelson (aka Gramps, Lord Nelson, Sir Wonderful, Lieutenant Dan, Dan the Man and of course, Taco Dan) passed peacefully into the afterlife on Wednesday, August 14, 2019, at the age of 78, surrounded by his family at home. An officer, a husband, a father, a businessman, and a Pirate; Dan’s colorful outlook on life can be so eloquently summarized in the words of one of his favorite artists, Frank Sinatra:
I’ve lived a life that’s full,
I’ve traveled each and every highway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 23, 1940, he was a “Yankee” until age 11 when his parents moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His lively Fort Lauderdale life was majorly changed when at age 24 he joined the Air Force and earned his Commission and Navigator Wings through the Aviation Cadet Program. He spent 21 wonderful years flying all over the world in the C-124, C-141, and the RF-4C. Assignments included Dover AFB, Delaware; Bergstrom AFB, Austin Texas; Udorn Thailand; RAF Alconbury England; Eglin AFB, Fort Walton Beach Florida and HQ EUCOM, Stuttgart Germany.
At age 29, while stationed at Dover AFB, he finally captured and married Barbara (Bobbi) Cato, 5 days after proposing the second time, and he began a new lifelong learning program. They have 2 wonderful children, Ashley (married to Mark Siner) and Reed (married to Kristina Garcia), and 6 grandchildren: Cooper, Bentley, and McLaren (cool automobile names) Siner, all of Shalimar, FL; and Hallie, Kinley, and Briard Nelson, all of Jacksonville, FL.
Official Air Force retirement was very brief (8 days) and at age 46, he went into business. He opened the first Taco Bell franchise restaurant in Fort Walton Beach at the Santa Rosa Mall in 1986 – the beginning of a second career - culminating in five Taco Bell stores before his second (permanent) retirement at age 68, and the sale of these five stores to his children.
Dan’s family cannot begin to express their thanks and love for all of the care, compassion and support they received from all of their amazing friends and the medical professionals and caretakers that helped them through this difficult process in the circle of life. They are eternally grateful to have been surrounded by so many angels. Dan – you will be missed!
A Celebration of Life / Party for Dan will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Dan suggested memorial contributions be made to Fort Walton Beach Rotary Scholarship, P. O. Box 892, Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32549 or to The William Augustus Bowles Museum and Historical Foundation, P.O. Box 517 Ft. Walton Beach, FL 32549.
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