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Jerry  A.  Nelson

Obituary for Jerry A. Nelson

February 22, 1923 - October 6, 2018
Newark, Delaware | Age 95


Jerry A. Nelson, World War II Navy officer and DuPont Ph.D. chemist and inventor, died peacefully on October 6, 2018 at age 95. His son Clark was at his side.

Born in 1923 in Durango, Colorado, son of Frank and Thelma Nelson, Jerry grew up idolizing the famous chemist Louis Pasteur, and at age 9 Jerry decided he too would become a chemist. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry in 1946 and his Ph.D. in 1950 from the University of Washington.

In 1944, Jerry met and married his beloved wife Carmen, and received his naval commission, becoming Lieutenant Gunnery Officer of Landing Ship Medium 13 (LSM 13).

That number 13 triggered superstition in the crew, so Jerry asked Walt Disney Studios to create a black cat mascot for the ship. Disney obliged, and Jerry and the crew painted the mascot on the ship's conning tower. When ordered by the fleet commander to remove it, Jerry instead instructed the crew to disguise it with paper. That lucky black cat saw the ship safely through Okinawa, Lingayen Gulf, Guadalcanal, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. The LSM 13 survived battle, kamikaze bombers, and two typhoons, and eventually led the LSM brigade in the 1945 Tokyo Bay Surrender Ceremony.

In 1950, Jerry was hired by DuPont as a research chemist, advancing to head of textile and industrial chemicals, head of new products at the DuPont Experimental Station, and head of new dye development at Jackson Laboratory. He directed research in polymers, fluorochemicals, surface chemistry, textile chemicals, aromatic intermediates, and dyes. Notable work included the development of Zepel and Dri-Lux, sold to Dow Milliken as Capture.

Jerry holds 12 patents on polymers and organic titanates, and he coauthored 10 scientific articles on azulene, isocyanates, and polyurethanes.

After retirement, Jerry enjoyed life with Carmen, traveling internationally and RV'ing throughout the U.S. He became a skilled bird carver, enjoyed popularity as an in-demand handyman for family and friends, and gained local notoriety as "that quirky, friendly old guy who rides his bicycle around town every morning."

In his late 80s, he converted a bedroom to a microbiology lab, spending hours observing and photographing one-celled life forms with optical binocular microscopes and capturing previously unrecorded photos and videos of rare specimens. His photos were featured in Outdoor Delaware, as well as in his unique holiday cards.

Jerry is survived by his brother James Nelson, his daughters Cheryl "Chere" Louise Gueffroy Nelson of Stockholm, Sweden and Gwyneth Dwyer of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and his son Clark "Kip" Nelson who returned to Newark after more than 45 years to be a caregiver to his father. Jerry adored his grandchildren Caroline Jarrell, Scott Jarrell, Julia Nelson, Ross Dwyer, and Elizabeth Dwyer, and nieces and nephews Jennifer Nelson, Jill Simmons, and Jeffrey Nelson.

Service and internment will be private.

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122 W. Main Street
Newark, DE 19711
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