Sarah Stultz: Never underestimate your influence in life

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

I never met Milton “Mickey” Nelson, but his simple actions touched my heart when we wrote about him during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I was reminded of this extraordinary man last week when I saw that Nelson passed away at Thorne Crest Senior Living Community at the age of 103.

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When my co-worker wrote the Tribune’s first story about Nelson, he was 99 years old and had pledged to walk 100 miles by the end of the summer before his 100th birthday in an effort to raise money for people who were struggling to provide meals for their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World War II veteran liked to walk the streets of Clarks Grove when weather allowed it, and he wanted to support one of his favorite charities, the Salvation Army, as his birthday approached.

Nelson said he has always been lucky enough to have food on the table and wanted to help others who might not be able to do so.

The Salvation Army, at that time particularly, was on the front lines of food distribution and was seeing a major increase in people who were needing assistance.

Though the walk started as a challenge from his daughters, when word spread of Nelson’s pledge, it quickly grew into something more.

In addition to being featured in the local media, Nelson’s story was featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and even on Good Morning America and CNN.

Nelson would walk either a half a mile or a mile each day and then log his distance in a notebook each day.

At a time when there was not as much positive news, what Nelson had set out to do was a ray of sunshine and a reminder that we can each have an impact through small and simple actions.

With his determination, it was no surprise that when all was said and done, and his 100th birthday arrived, Nelson raised over $100,000 for his cause.

He became a local celebrity of sorts and even got to throw out the virtual first pitch for the Minnesota Twins from Hayek Field. The pitch was broadcast before a Twins game in honor of Armed Forces Appreciation Day.

To Nelson’s family, I hope you know that your loved one’s actions made an impact on many — not only for those who personally benefited from his contribution through the Salvation Army, but also for people like me, who were inspired to do good and be a little better every day by his actions.

I don’t know much about Nelson’s life before that series of stories began in the newspaper, but I would not be surprised to learn he lived a life of generosity, of paying it forward and of leaving places better than he found them.

He truly left our community better through his efforts.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.