In a photo titled “Birthday Party at Uncle Fred Nelsen’s Place,” are, from left, Fred and Dora Nelsen’s daughters, Rose Elsie, Hilda and Alma; Helen Nelsen, daughter of James Nelsen; Evan Nelsen, who Fred and Dora’s son; and Mark Nelsen, son of Herman Nelsen. The Nelsens had many family gatherings throughout the seasons. Contributed photo

In a photo titled “Birthday Party at Uncle Fred Nelsen’s Place,” are, from left, Fred and Dora Nelsen’s daughters, Rose Elsie, Hilda and Alma; Helen Nelsen, daughter of James Nelsen; Evan Nelsen, who Fred and Dora’s son; and Mark Nelsen, son of Herman Nelsen. The Nelsens had many family gatherings throughout the seasons. Contributed photo

Community service was an integral part of the Nelsen family and helped shaped the Tukwila area.

Nelsen family has history of civic spirit

When Fred Nelsen arrived from Denmark in 1889, he decided to settle in the area where his brother James Nelsen had started his dairy operation. After working for several area farmers, Fred went into dairying and developed a large, prosperous modern dairy in the area known as Renton Junction after the building of the Interurban Electric Railway. Fred married Dora, and the couple quickly distinguished for themselves with their civic spirit and community leadership.

Both Fred and Dora served at the local, regional and state levels. At the local level, they served on the Renton School Board where their children attended high school. Proud of their Danish heritage, Fred and Dora remained active in the Danish Brotherhood and Sisterhood throughout their lives and were members of the Danish Lutheran Church. They were charter members of the White River Grange No. 238 in 1908. From that point, they served in many capacities at the Washington State Grange level. In 1958, Fred was recognized for 50 years of service with the Grange, receiving the Gold Sheaf Member status. In addition to his Grange service, he was also a founder and charter member of the Board of Directors of Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound. Fred also served as a district representative in the State Legislature from 1917 to 1919.

Community service was an integral part of the Nelsen family, and relatives followed Fred’s example throughout the years. In the book, “Tukwila – Community at the Crossroads” the Nelsens are described as belonging to “that desirable class of foreign-born, American citizens whose inherited tendencies of industry and perseverance have constituted important factors in the upbuilding of the Pacific Northwest.”

Pat Brodin is secretary of the Tukwila Historical Society, which operates the Tukwila Heritage and Cultural Center, 14475 59th Ave. S. The center’s phone number is 206-244-4478 and the email is tukwilahistsociety@tukwilahistory.org.

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