By Mary O’KEEFE
Crescenta Valley has been compared, several times, to Mayberry, that iconic little town where everyone knows everyone and help is never further than a neighbor away. The reason CV is raised to this level of the classic depiction of American life is because of the people who not just live here, but those who volunteer and support it.
Fred Nelson was one of those residents who supported the community that he had grown to love. Fred passed away on Feb. 3 at the age of 74, leaving an empty chair at many of community events and organizations that he was a part of for many years.
Fred and his wife Liz moved to California from Chicago in 1979 and, like many who leave the cold Midwest, they moved directly to the beach. For years they lived in the Huntington and Newport Beach areas. Then the couple went to a party at the Montrose Bowling Alley and Liz just had a feeling this was the place they should be.
“It took me awhile to get him to leave the beach,” Liz said. “But within a year of living [in CV] he was happy, happier than he had ever been.”
They moved to the Crescenta Valley in 2007.
The couple immediately got involved with just about everything that was happening in the area. They became members of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), Fred helped plant trees for the Experimental Forest in the Verdugo Mountains and in Deukmejian Wilderness Park, they joined the Little Landers Historical Society in Tujunga and the Historical Society of Crescenta Valley, and the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy – just to name a few organizations they were involved with.
Fred was always ready with a joke and, Liz said, people here “got” his sense of humor.
“Fred was an interesting guy. He would regale you with stories of time travel and traveling through the galaxy,” said Stuart Byles, member of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and co-founder of the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy. “Fred was a big reader. He had an arcane sense of humor. You never knew if he was pulling your leg or was serious.”
The couple was very active in CERT and helping the community. Fred was in the hospital during the Station Fire but was very active during the flooding that followed.
“We helped when the mudslides happened,” Liz said.
The couple patrolled the neighborhoods with CERT and helped where they were needed.
Fred and Liz manned booths at the CV Chamber of Commerce Hometown Country Fair and at Harvest Market for their various organizations.
But Fred had an aggressive form of arthritis that began to affect his ability to attend all the events he wanted to, Liz said.
It may have slowed him down but didn’t stop him – at first – but as it progressed there were more doctors’ appointments as the illness began to take its toll.
On Thanksgiving 2014, Fred slipped and fell at his home. The result was an injury to his back; after that he wasn’t getting any better. Then Liz thought Fred had the flu but they soon found he had suffered a heart attack.
For two months he struggled with his injury, the arthritis and his heart condition.
“He couldn’t walk two feet, but the weekend before he [passed away] he wanted to take out the garbage,” she said. “He wanted to help.”
The reasons the couple loved the community became even more evident as neighbors and friends rallied to bring food and help with yard work.
Fred had told Liz that he did not want to die in a hospital. When he had his final heart attack he was home, holding onto his wife’s hand like he had for almost 45 years.
He did not want any services.
“He said, ‘The people that I care about know that I care and I have said everything to everyone I need to,’” Liz said.
She added that although he is gone, his spirit remains at all of the community events and his presence will always be felt.