Curtis Nelson obituary (12/08/1935 – 12/14/2021) – Gales Ferry, CT


Gales Ferry – Curtis Reeves Nelson, 86, passed away on December 14, 2021. He left for his last trip as he did for all his adventures, at his own pace, from his home in Gales Ferry, after a battle against esophageal cancer and cardiac arrest. After dinner the night before, her last words were I love you. Thank you. God bless you.

Curtis was the first son of the late Clarence and Ethel (Beard) Nelson, born December 8, 1935. He was predeceased in the passing of his beloved wife of 54 years, Pamela Jackson Nelson, on November 1, 2011; and one daughter, Paige Nelson, born February 5, 1974. He is survived by his daughter, Beth Jae Nelson Gaucher and her husband Michael; his son Craig Curtis Nelson and his wife Michelle (Baudro). He took his role as the family patriarch seriously by keeping in touch with his five siblings, Charles Nelson of Utah, Janet Geoghegan of Connecticut, Roger Nelson of Connecticut, Karen Sutera of Connecticut, and Thomas Nelson of Virginia. He was immensely proud of his five grandchildren and their families, Nicole Gaucher of New York, Shane Gaucher and his wife Jessica (Beckerman) of Massachusetts, Kyle Nelson and his wife Carolyn (Geils) of Connecticut, Corinne Gaucher and her husband. Justin Canfield from Oregon and Hope Nelson Hespeler and her husband Tyler from Connecticut. As a bonus, he had four great-grandchildren, Ava Jae Stevcic-Gaucher and Luca Stevcic-Gaucher of New York and Ailyn Gaucher and Emmie Gaucher of Massachusetts. He is survived by many nieces and nephews he cherished. He bestowed “Honorary Nelson” status on two devoted and beloved friends, John J. Crowley of Connecticut and Jennifer Baudro of Michigan.

Curtis graduated from the University of Connecticut with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He worked at Electric Boat for 35 years and retired at 55. He led the advanced engineering department and has stayed close to a group of friends who have gathered for lunch every month since.

Curtis will be referred to as “Poppy” for the remainder of this writing and for all eternity.

Poppy LOVED fly fishing and fly tying. After her marriage in Mount Carmel to Pamela Jackson on August 31, 1957, they went fishing on their honeymoon. When three of his five grandchildren were planning their wedding, he reminded them that if they got married in September, he might not be there. All three took place in September and he was there. September was his annual trip to New Brunswick, Canada, to fish for Atlantic salmon in the Miramichi River.

Poppy traveled with her good friend, the late Wes Blair, and wintered for 17 years in Gore, New Zealand, fishing for trout and staying with friends on their sheep ranch. It was here that he developed a love for Sauvignon Blanc and kept a journal of his finds.

He was hired by Woods Hole and the University of Alaska to grayling at Prudhoe Bay, for a two-week biological study. He caught, measured, recorded data, and then released the fish.

Poppy enjoyed several trips to Bonefish in Spanish Wells, Bahamas with her friend, the late Steve Cicoria and was joined by Kyle on a 3 week stay. Other tropical fishing trips included Belize.

Locally, he was a founding member of the Thames Valley branch of Trout Unlimited, chairman for seven years and a member of the TU State Council and Fisheries Advisory Committee. He was a founding member of ConnRi Coastal Fishers and a member of the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Poppy belonged to the Westbrook Fishing Club in North Stonington for 35 years. It was here that he demonstrated his skills to all of his grandchildren and shared some techniques. He was delighted that Ava Jae and Luca spent time there with him. He was Chairman of the WBFC Fishing and Game Board of Directors for 27 years. He enjoyed stocking the pond as recently as October and sponsored a children’s fishing tournament there on November 7th which, much to his delight, attended by Ailyn and Emmie. His other hobby at the club was playing cribbage with The Cribbage Oldies every Wednesday until 2020. He has taught Hope to play and she or Michelle has been his opponent almost every night for the past 10 years.

Poppy had a few other hobbies. He was a hockey player from his childhood in Hamden until the age of 60. He was one of the founders of Southeastern Connecticut Youth Hockey. Eventually, Craig joined as a coach and Kyle as a player. He competed in Ledyard relays for 5 people for 20 years, including 8 with Craig in the racing canoe. Poppy was the “Captain” in Captain Chrome Dome and the Jabbering Trout. If you’ve driven on his rural road, you’ve seen him tending his organic garden, making compost, or mowing his field. A lot of times he only wore wellies and swimsuits when working outside in the summer so it was quite a sight! He enjoyed chopping firewood in the ’70s with the Ledyard children Beth had brought home and was in contact with a number of them until the end.

Poppy was sociable, jovial, wise, straightforward but fair, thoughtful and defiant. He remembered the names of all his teachers and professors. He asked a lot of questions. He had an infectious smile. If he didn’t know the answer to a question, he would ask someone to get on his machine (smartphone) and find the answer. He wanted the conversation, to keep learning and for us all to have dreams and goals. One of Poppy’s favorite quotes was, “Close your eyes, focus and dream for all you are worth.” We hope all of her dreams have come true.

The family would like to thank the Ledyard Police Department for their support following the loss of Poppy. We would be remiss not to mention the long-standing care of Dr Peter Gates and more recently Dr Sapna Khubchandani and his team at HHC Medical Group Oncology and Hematology.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday April 16, 2022 at the Westbrook Fishing Club. All current and past members of the WBFC are encouraged to attend, as are those who considered him a friend.

Arrangements were made by Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home, 12 Ocean Avenue, New London. Online condolences can be shared at

Posted by The Day on January 4, 2022.


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