Longtime Bremerton resident Jorgen Nelson leaves lasting legacy

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Longtime Bremerton resident Jorgen Nelson died Nov. 1 at the age of 83. Many people knew him because of the jewelry store he operated for almost eight decades. To those who knew him best he was simply Jorgy.

Nelson was born in Seattle on Aug. 23, 1925 to Jorgen and Anna Nelson of Bremerton. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Washington in 1948.

On Sept. 4, 1948, he married Betty Woodworth of Seattle. The couple recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

In 1949, he joined the Bremerton Central Lions Club and was its longest-standing member.

Frank Wetzel, who served as the ombudsman of the Seattle Times from 1987 to 1990 and worked for the Associated Press, was one of Nelson’s oldest friends.

“Jorgy, dear good-hearted Jorgy, was steadfast, solid, almost stolid, the kind of guy that makes small-town America great,” Wetzel recalled.

Starting in 1926, Wetzel lived across the street from Nelson on Gregory Way just outside the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

“It was the kind of neighborhood where kids could walk into a friend’s home without knocking, perhaps to ask if their pal could come out and play, or perhaps to borrow a cup of sugar,” he said. “Later at our house where a game of bridge lasted the duration of World War II, he might sit down for a rubber or two.”

Nelson was a lifelong, consummate card player of bridge or poker, Wetzel said.

“In the spring, when the days lengthened and kids could play outside after dinner, Jorgy’s mother would signal that it was time to come inside by stepping to her front porch and trilling, “JORRRRR-GEN!” he recalled fondly. “Bless her heart, she could achieve the decibels of the Navy Yard whistle. Her call signaled that it was time for all of us to come inside and go to bed.”

Wetzel remembered Nelson was one of those people who never had a radical thought in his life.

“When we walked down Burwell to Central School, in the third or fourth grade, he liked to stay in step with his companions. So to vex him we would do a fast skip-step to interrupt his rhythm,” Wetzel said. “In a way that’s a metaphor for his whole life: he always liked to be in synch with his friends.”

Later, while attending Lincoln Junior High School, a gang of kids from the neighborhood attended Miss Margaret Tapping’s School of Dance, held Saturday evenings in the basement of the old Elks’ Temple on Pacific Avenue, he said.

“We learned the polka and the schottische and the fox trot and the smart, agile kids like Jorgy learned to jitterbug,” Wetzel said. “His ability on the dance floor made him popular with the girls and served him well throughout his life.”

In high school, Nelson was more interested in sports than getting good grades, although he was a good student, Wetzel said, adding that Nelson lettered in tennis as a sophomore, basketball as junior and football as a senior.

Nelson and his closest friend, Cal Christensen, won the tri-county doubles championship, but Nelson didn’t play football as a senior because he was going into the Navy.

“He was president of the Boys’ Club his senior year, demonstrating the leadership he would display later in community life as president of the Navy League, president of the Kitsap Golf Course and president of CAPRI,” Wetzel said.

Nelson was loyal, always true to his friends, he added.

“Somehow, somewhere, we developed a special handshake that we shared with no one else,” Wetzel said. “I treasure his look of delight when we met, sometimes after years apart, and clasped hands in that special, unique shake.”

Survivors include his wife Betty, of Bremerton; sons Jorgen W. Nelson of Bremerton and James Nelson (Patricia) of Bremerton; daughter-in-law Margot Nelson of Littleton, Colo.; and three grandchildren Laura and Lisa of Colorado, and Tyler of Bremerton. He was preceded in death by a son, Jeffrey.

A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 10 at Summit Avenue Presbyterian Church, 403 S. Summit Ave., in Bremerton. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Kitsap County Historical Society in appreciation for maintenance of the jewelry store clock, or to another charity of the donor’s choice.

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