Arthur Wayne Nelson

Date of Birth

September 16, 1928

Date of Death

March 23, 2021

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Arthur Wayne Nelson, beloved father and grandfather, was suddenly taken home to the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on March 23, 2021. Arthur was born September 16,1928 to Harry and Edith Nelson in Kingsburg, CA. The family later moved to Santa Maria, CA. where he attended local schools and worked in his father’s auto shop as a mechanic. He graduated from Santa Maria High and Santa Maria Junior College earning an Associate of Arts Degree in Natural Science. Arthur came to Santa Barbara, CA. to attend Westmont College and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science in 1952. This is where he met his beloved wife, Martha Patterson Nelson, who passed away in 2007. Immediately after graduation, he was called to serve with the Armed Forces and entered the U.S. Army Vehicle Mechanics School at Fort Ord, CA. where he graduated with honors. He served as a corporal with the U. S. Army, 28th Infantry Division, 110th Regiment until May1954, during the occupation of Germany. Upon his return, Arthur Wayne and Martha married in July of 1954. He then obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Welfare at UCLA in 1957. Their daughter Catherine was born in 1959.

He began his career in 1957 with the Santa Barbara County Welfare Department (now known as the Department of Social Services), and also held part-time positions at UCSB and Westmont College for 30 years, teaching classes in social and child welfare. In addition, he served on numerous boards and committees, co-authored published articles and State Legislative recommendations, and was active in the community and his church. He also was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including a Letter of Appreciation from Governor Ronald Reagan in 1972, the Honorary Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Santa Barbara Rotary Club in 1997, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NASW, CA Chapter, and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition in 2010.

During his decades of dedication to his career and his community, he was highly regarded for his professionalism, and also known for being an approachable boss, advisor, and role model. Most of all, however, he was dedicated to his family, his faith, and his friends, and was appreciated for who he was – quiet, kind, thoughtful, patient, abundantly generous; he was a man of deep convictions, good humor, and had a gift for conversation. He was an attentive and giving spouse, father, and grandfather showing his love through faithful commitment and thoughtful actions. He was also a skillful mechanic with hobbies from boyhood on, which included classic cars, boats, and listening to Big Band music. Whether driving a ski boat at the church junior high camps, or giving rides to friends in his classic cars for fun or fundraisers, he was in his element.

In recent years, he particularly enjoyed teaching his grandson Cory how to rebuild the engine of the family’s 1965 Chevrolet Malibu Super Sport 327, a car Cory then drove during his high school years. Retirement highlights included first trips to Hawaii and, with cousin Grace, a cruise to Alaska, and a special return trip to Yosemite Valley to share his childhood memories with his daughter and grandson. Other events included attending Cory’s college graduation at Long Beach State in 2017, and a memorable trip to Washington D.C. in September 2019 made possible by Honor Flight Central Coast, with Cory serving as his “Guardian.” He cherished the opportunity to welcome Cory home at the SB Airport last year with a salute, after Cory graduated Army Basic Training at Fort Sill, OK. with honors, and AIT graduation at Fort Jackson, SC., awarded Soldier of the Cycle.

Even into his 90’s, Arthur enjoyed walking Shoreline Park, riding his bike at the beach, attending musical concerts at Westmont College, gathering weekly for Sunday church services, dining with family, friends, and former colleagues, and line dancing at The Samarkand. He lived life fully and humbly, and was a great example to so many.

He is survived by his daughter Catherine Nelson, LCSW, and his grandson, SPC Cory J. Nelson, Religious Affairs Specialist, U.S. Army Reserve, each of whom has followed in his footsteps–Catherine with a career in social work having completed the same graduate degree at UCLA as her father received in 1957, and Cory with service overseas. He is also survived by his cousins, Grace Kyle of Orcutt, CA. and her family, and Edna Mae Goble of Sacramento, CA. and her family, and by Martha’s cousins in the Grimm and Greatbanks families. He will be deeply missed as a beloved father, grandfather, cousin, and friend.

A special thank you to the Samarkand Community, Montecito Covenant Church, the Westmont College Community, the County DSS Community, Honor Flight-Central Coast, Dr. Kari Mathison, Dr. Zisman, Dr. Goyal, Dr. Lam, Dr. Lash, SBCH staff, and to our family and friends for their support.

A private service with limited seating will be held Saturday April 10, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at Montecito Covenant Church, and livestreamed on the MCC YouTube channel. A Celebration of Life and the Military Funeral Honors Ceremony will be arranged for next year at this time, and we welcome all to attend.

In lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution may be made to: Montecito Covenant Church, Westmont College, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, or to Honor Flight-Central Coast. Arrangements by Welch-Ryce-Haider.


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