Paul Nelson believed in being a good steward of the earth. He had a passion for Georgia’s state parks, which he incorporated with a career that would reward him with the opportunity to devote his life to sustaining and improving our natural resources.
“It was his life’s work, and he was proud of what he did,” said his wife, Carol Lucas of Chattahoochee Hills.
A lover of the outdoors, Nelson often took to one of his favorite state parks for an afternoon of hiking, meditation or journal writing. “He felt like it was important for people to connect with nature,” his wife said, adding that they were married at an outdoor ceremony at Tallulah Gorge State Park.
Nelson attended Phillips Andover Academy and earned degrees from Columbia University and Drake University. He spent most of his career working with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, where he most recently served as assistant director of its parks, recreation and historic sites division.
“Georgia state parks had one of its best gifts through Paul Nelson,” said Becky Kelley, DNR’s director of parks, recreation and historic sites.
“He chose the state parks because he felt that they were just beautiful. He really wanted to make it easier for people to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” his wife said.
Paul Michael Nelson of Chattahoochee Hills died Monday in a motorcycle accident. He was 63. A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Sunday at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs. The Cremation Society of Georgia was in charge of arrangements.
Kelley said she selected Nelson as her assistant director several years ago, and noted that he was a critical part of DNR’s leadership and “the guy that everyone wants on their team.”
“He was a master analytical thinker,” Kelley said. “He was always so focused on doing the right thing. I never had to second guess anything he gave me.”
Despite Nelson’s wisdom and skills, he was described as completely unobtrusive and service-oriented, both personally and professionally.
“He was such a kind and gentle man, always willing to contribute,” his wife said.
“He was very quiet, but very powerful in influence,” Kelley said.
Those who knew him said Nelson will be remembered for his love of literature, his curiosity, and his quirky charm. He was always learning, evident by his extensive library, and he never missed the opportunity to make note of interesting things.
“He always carried a highlighter around with him, just in case,” his wife said with a laugh.
“Part of our love for Paul was that he had some very unique characteristics that just endeared him to all of us,” Kelley said.
Nelson also is survived by sons Josh Nelson and Kenny Jones and daughter Laura Jones, all of Atlanta.
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