At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
VFW National Home for Children
3573 S Waverly Rd
Eaton Rapids, MI 48827
Kalamazoo Animal Services
2500 Lake St
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
American Legion Post #309
560 N Phelps Street
Decatur, MI 49045
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Nelson Harms, it is easy to see that his days were centered on his family. He was deeply devoted to his loved ones, and he was so proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Nelson was a man of great courage and integrity who believed that true character is who you are when no one is looking. He was an inspiration to everyone he met, and his zest for life was truly contagious. Although he will be deeply missed, Nelson leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that his loved ones and friends will forever cherish.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of the nation were focused overseas as WWII raged on. Those who remained stateside became all too familiar with rationing on common goods such as rubber, tin, coffee, and sugar while manufacturing was focused on supporting the war effort. It was in 1944 that Virginia Brandenburg Harms welcomed the baby boy she named Nelson into her heart. Born and raised in Lakewood, Ohio, his grandparents, Edwin and Amy Brandenburg, were also instrumental in raising him. Nelson’s grandfather was an entrepreneur, and it was from his grandfather that Nelson got his own entrepreneurial spirit as he wasn’t afraid to take chances in the business world as an adult.
In many ways Nelson was a young man of his generation. He became best friends with Jeff Burkett, whom he met in grade school, and together the pair had several adventures riding bikes, playing ball, and sledding in the winter. Nelson had a newspaper route by age 9, was active in the Boy Scouts and enjoyed being part of the audio-visual group at Lakewood High School.
After graduating in 1962, Nelson immediately entered the Navy in service to the country he loved. Nelson served for 3 years-1 month-9 days-6 hours-23 minutes-and somewhere under 60 seconds (if you knew Nelson, this would be a familiar buzz in your ear), primarily as a radio operator in an Airborne Early Warning squadron based at Barbers Point, flying secret reconnaissance missions between Midway Island and 150 miles south of The Aleutian Islands to track all Eastbound air traffic from The Soviet Union. He held dear the camaraderie and brotherhood of the AEW BarRonPac. Nelson’s final military career signature was “ATN2, A/C, AEW BARRONPAC” and he was proud to achieve the Radar Constellation 1000 hour recognition. After his service, he continued his radio operator experience with his hobby in ham radio.
Following Nelson’s military service and as his industrial career began, he married Cathy Foshee, and together they were blessed with the births of two children, blonde haired- blue eyed “dream girl” Christine and the son he always wanted, Eric. Although their marriage later ended, he was forever grateful for the children they shared. Since he didn’t have a father while growing up, Nelson always did everything he could to be an amazing father to his children. He was very educational and interactive with his kids and grandkids.
As time passed, it was while dressed up as the Hunchback of Notre Dame at a Halloween party in 1979 that he met the woman of his dreams, Cheryl. The couple later started dating, and with a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Nelson and Cheryl were married on May 9, 1981, at Cheryl’s mother’s home in Portage. In 1989, he and Cheryl were thrilled with the birth of their daughter, Kimberly. Nelson and Kimberly often worked side by side on projects in and out of the classroom. Nelson taught her so many things that she could never have learned from a textbook including concepts in business, math, and even sports. Equally important were the lessons he taught his children through the way he lived his everyday life. He often said, “Character is who you are when no one is looking,” and, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I am going to achieve my personal best.”
Nelson was someone who highly valued education, and in continuance of the education gained in the military, he received two associate’s degrees from Kalamazoo Valley Community College. From electronics to industrial sales, Nelson achieved many of his goals, including Motorola Salesman of the Year and starting Modern Industrial Concepts, his own industrial sales rep business in 1984. As the General Manager of MICON, he served both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan.
Throughout his life, Nelson was one to remain busy and active and was a committed lifelong learner and teacher, even as he entered into retirement in 1994. He retired directly into starting a landscaping company which evolved into a snowplowing business, and eventually a DJ company where he warmly accepted the stage name of “Brother Love”. Nelson’s DJ roots were inspired by “AJ Mackay from Tampa Bay FLA” who started his love of singing karaoke. Friends from Legends Lounge will always remember Nelson for singing “That’s Life”, “Speedy Gonzales” with Kimberly, and many other comical favorites. He enjoyed this work and later taught his son and daughter the business. Nelson led Junior Achievement at Chime Elementary, where he will always be remembered for asking, “What is Trade?” He also acted as President of the VVA Chapter 93 from 1986-87. Much of his retired time was spent doing humanitarian work, as he was a member of the Oshtemo Rotary and volunteered his DJ services at various fund raisers and local non-profits. Nelson was a very spiritual person and loved the fellowship present within the local community. His commitment to the military continued through the very last days of his life through service in the American Legion. Nelson was a lifelong fan of the Cleveland Browns, and during his younger years he coached and managed softball teams. He enjoyed fishing, and one of his favorite places was Opechee Lake in Canada where they spent many family vacations. He was incredibly well read, extremely knowledgeable, and a source for others to go to when they were looking for answers. As someone who valued family, Nelson looked forward to every family gathering. He also welcomed with open arms the contact his sister, Bev made so he was able to enjoy the siblings he had lost hope of meeting.
Sadly, over the past few years Nelson’s health began declining. In 2014 he entered into hospice care, but he instead chose through his own fortitude to restart dialysis and fight to live again despite doctor skepticisms. During this time he leaned on Steve Guldemond and “Buck” Soule for daily care and counted on the pair for help with responsibilities.
All who knew Nelson Harms would agree that his heart was as big as they come. He was generous and had a selfless spirit, and he was an honest man who valued integrity and character. Nelson cherished every moment that he had to spend with his family, and he was so proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Dearly loved, he will be forever missed.
Nelson Harms, of Kalamazoo, died of natural causes on Thursday, August 25, 2016. Members of his family include his wife, Cheryl; 3 children: Christine Germann, Eric (Jennifer) Harms and Kimberly Harms, 4 grandchildren: Tad (Lea), Tia, Nicole, Ashley; and 2 great-grandchildren: Ben and Cal; sisters and brothers: Beverly (Ernie) Brown, Barbara (Gregory) Piper, Ronald (Karen) Harms; a brother by choice, Keith “AJ” Hansen; in-laws: Phyllis and John Gerlofs; sister-in-law, Teri Jo (Dave) Kinnison; father-in-law, Charles (Jean) Kinnison; and his beloved dog, Venus. Nelson was preceded in death by his mother and stepfather: Virginia and Cyril McFrederick; and his brothers, Richard and Robert Harms. Cremation has taken place and a Celebration of Life will be held Sunday, September 11th (Please contact the family for service information). Please visit Nelson’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial donations may be made to the VFW National Home for Children, the American Legion Post 309 or to Kalamazoo County Animal Services.