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Dennis L. Nelson

December 6, 1943 ~ February 16, 2021 (age 77)

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Dennis L. Nelson, 77, of Onawa, Iowa, formerly of Hornick, Iowa, died Tuesday, February 16, 2021 at UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa from complications of Covid 19.

A drive thru public visitation will be 4:00 to 6:00 P.M. Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at the Rush Family Chapel, Onawa, Iowa. Please drive under the funeral home canopy and funeral home staff will hand a register book to your vehicle for you to sign. There will also be a basket available for cards. Please stay inside your vehicle as you pay your respects and the family will be greeting those attending with a personal wave and greeting outside. A private family service will be held at the Rush Family Chapel with Pastor Michael Lewis officiating. Please go to Kami Nelson’s Facebook page to view the live funeral. Burial will be in the Center Cemetery, rural Castana, Iowa. Arrangements are under the direction of Rush Family Care Service, Onawa, Iowa.

Dennis was an amazing man, husband, and father who was born on December 6, 1943 to Paul “Slim” and Bettye (Epperson) Nelson in Sioux City, IA. He was the second oldest of 12 children. He attended high school in Hornick, IA and graduated in 1961.

He married Janet (Melby) Davis, the love of his life, on Dec. 20, 1975, in Onawa, IA. They had one child, Kami, together. Dennis was also father to Andrew and Denny from a previous marriage.

Dennis was well known in the community as he was the owner of Nelson Propane, Gas and Diesel. He also held a seat on the Onawa City Council and volunteered on the fire department for a number of years. 

Dennis had several interests which included auto racing. He participated in many local car races in his younger days. After “retiring” from racing, he attended numerous professional races including The Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, IN; the Chili Bowl in Tulsa, OK; the Knoxville Nationals in Knoxville, IA and the Topeka Nationals drag races in Topeka, KS. His favorite Nascar driver was Dale Earnhardt.

He also enjoyed restoring cars, bowling, mini-rod pulls and woodworking. He restored several cars including a 1964 Corvette and 1938 Chevy coupe among others. You could usually find him working in his garage on one of his several projects, at the country club with his many friends, or at his shop doing woodworking for his friends and family. 

He loved his getaways. He and his wife Janet enjoyed several vacations but the annual trip to Canada with friends for fishing was a highlight of summer for a number of years.

Dennis took extreme pride in his daughter, Kami for whom he enjoyed coaching her and her friends in softball and basketball during her childhood. There are many fond memories and amazing times of him coaching the girls. 

Over the years, he spent much time on beloved hobbies of rounds of golf and playing cards with his friends at the Onawa Country Club. The Onawa Country Club, Bud Light, Jack Daniels and Coke-a-Cola companies are devastated by the loss of Dennis.

He will be deeply missed and is survived by his daughter, Kami Nelson and fiancee, Larry Barnes of Aurora, CO and son, Denny Nelson of Sioux City, IA; one stepdaughter, Rebecca “Becky” (Davis) and husband, Steve Purcell of Urbandale, IA; six grandchildren, Amber and Alec Nelson, Brandon and Shawn Davis, and Garrett and Grant Purcell; and two great-grandchildren, Kalen and Bristol; five sisters, Opal Scoggins of Black Canyon City, AZ, Paula (Chuck) Rose of Hornick, IA, Sally (Gary) Hunter of Sloan, IA, Tena (Larry) Hinkel of Mapleton, IA, and Pamela Wiechman of Corning, Iowa; five brothers, Donnie of St. Paul, MN, Ed and Robert (Deb), all of Hornick, Tim (Judith) of Sioux Falls, S.D. and Thomas of Venice, Italy; numerous nieces and nephews; great nieces and great nephews.

He has now happily been reunited with and was preceded in death by his wife, Janet; his parents, Paul and Bettye; his infant son, Andrew; stepson, Ken Davis; and brother, Paul (Shorty). And probably racing Dale Earnhardt at Bristol Motor Speedway.

All who loved him dearly will never forget his humor, how willing he was to help, friendly, and caring. He was always there to lend an ear and a beer to a friend in need and talk about his children, step-children and grandchildren which were his pride and joy. He lived life to the fullest and always had a blast doing it.

A “Celebration of Life” will be held during the spring once vaccines and Covid can allow large gatherings, further details will be announced.

Condolences may be left online for the family at


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dennis L. Nelson, please visit our floral store.


Public Visitation
February 24, 2021

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Rush Family Chapel
1629 10th Street
Onawa, IA 51040
Guaranteed delivery before the Public Visitation begins

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