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Grand Rapids Home for Veterans
3000 Monroe NW Grand Rapids , Michigan 49505
Life Story / Obituary
Nelson Sebright was a man with a sense of duty, of honor, and loyalty. He was a military man through and through, one of the best examples of our Greatest Generation, yet his experiences never hardened him. Nelson had with him an inner peace, a quiet dignity, making him a man you couldn't help but follow. Today we still follow him, follow his example, and remember a man who could only be called a hero.
Nelson was born in his family's farmhouse on January 20, 1919, in Watson Township, the fifth of 10 children to Glenn and Grace (Wynne) Sebright. The Sebrights ran a tight ship around their house, and raised their children with a strict discipline. It was a trait that Nelson found admirable, and he sought out that sense of discipline his entire life. When he was 17, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, an historic public works program that put over three million young men to work during the dark days of the Great Depression. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's program, aided by the hard work of young men like Nelson, planted over 3 billion trees throughout the country from 1933 to 1942, in an effort to fight soil erosion. Nelson's tenure in the CCC moved him away from his Watson Township home, to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where thousands of testaments to his hard work still stand.
When his country needed him again, at the start of World War II, Nelson again answered the call, enlisting in the United States Navy in 1940. Nelson was stationed aboard the USS Langley, our nation's first aircraft carrier, where he was part of many naval battles. The Langley was awarded nine battle stars over several campaigns, but was sunk by Japanese fire in 1942. Nelson was one of just 43 to survive. Undaunted, he was then stationed to the USS Sturdivant, before it, too, was sunk by enemy fire. Nelson was sent to the USS Washington battleship, where he worked in the ship's carpenter shop and was assigned to damage control. Some of his most memorable moments aboard the Washington were crossing the equator and the night they sank the enemy battleship Kirishima, November 13, 1944, the first head-to-head battleship confrontation in the Pacific, in the battle of Guadalcanal.
But Nelson's fondest memories from those days had nothing to do with battles or aircraft carriers. It was during the service that he met a young woman named Bernice Powell, who was a waitress at a little restaurant just off the naval base. The two fell in love, and married on June 12, 1944, while he was still in the service.
Together, Nelson and Bernice raised six wonderful children, daughters Viola, Lee, and Norine, and sons William, Glenn and Joe. The family moved around quite a bit over the years, but Nelson spent most of his life in Martin. Sadly, Bernice died in 2000 after 56 years of marriage.
Nelson would find love again, and married his wife Lovie in 2001, which made him so happy. And like so many, Lovie was simply drawn to Nelson, with his quiet dignity, his inner strength. He had a laid-back personality that made him so approachable, and he always made fast friends. It wasn't hard to see why. Nelson loved to talk to people, who always loved to listen. He also enjoyed playing Cribbage and word puzzles, but his favorite hobby was spending time at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Wayland post, where he was a lifelong member.
Nelson was a man of great honor, duty and dignity, one of the greatest examples of our Greatest Generation. He was a witness to history, but more than anything, he was a testament to heroism. Today we remember him, remember his example, and as always, we will try to follow. He will be greatly missed.
Nelson E. Sebright of Grand Rapids and formerly of Martin died Thursday, December 29, 2005 in Grand Rapids. He was born on January 20, 1919 in Watson Twp. to Glenn and Grace (Wynne) Sebright. Visit with Nelson's family and friends at the RDMG Life Story Funeral Home, Plainwell Chapel, from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. Funeral services will be held 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home. Members of Nelson's family include his wife Lovie, daughters, Viola (Jesse) Rasnake of Martin, Lee ( Dave) Schultz of Allegan, Norine (Frank) Stahlhood of Hurricane, Utah, sons, William (Bernadine) Sebright of Allegan, Glenn (Sue) Sebright and Joe (Kirsten) Sebright both of Rockford , Ill. 21 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 4 great great- grandchildren. He was preceded in death his first wife Bernice, sisters, Edna, Marcia, Betty, Winifred and Nile, brothers, Edward, Martin, Lindon and Lewis. Please visit Nelson's web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can read his life story, archive a favorite memory, or make a memorial contribution to the Grand Rapids Veterans Home.