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William Penn Nelson

November 26, 1935 -
May 1, 2019

William Penn Nelson passed away at OSF Hospital in Urbana at 8:20AM on Wednesday May 1, 2019 with loved ones near. Penn had suffered from congestive heart failure but no one who knew Penn ever questioned the strength of his heart.

Penn was born November 26, 1935 to Lloyd William and Evelyn Penn Nelson. He was ra…read more

William Penn Nelson passed away at OSF Hospital in Urbana at 8:20AM on Wednesday May 1, 2019 with loved ones near. Penn had suffered from congestive heart failure but no one who knew Penn ever questioned the strength of his heart.

Penn was born November 26, 1935 to Lloyd William and Evelyn Penn Nelson. He was raised with his sister, Betty Lloyd Nelson (Bauer), in Edina, MN and remained there through college where he met his beautiful bride, Barbara Jean Joffe Nelson. It was love at first sight as he told a friend standing near, “I’m going to marry her.” Their first meeting was one of his favorite stories and he recounted it many times including on the evening before he passed.

Penn and Barb wed on August 3, 1962 at his parents’ home. They welcomed Michele Ellen Nelson (Baker) to the world on December 22, 1965 in Minneapolis, MN. They lived in Hopkins, MN until they moved to Evanston, IL for Penn’s job at Hart Schaffner & Marx. On August 23, 1968 they welcomed their second daughter, Cynthia (Cindy) Jayne Nelson (Somers).

Penn’s stay in Champaign-Urbana began in 1969 when he transferred from Chicago to work in the custom-tailored clothing business. During his 18 years in the clothing business, he had the “tall task” of measuring the University of Illinois basketball team for custom-tailored blazers during the Harv Schmidt era. Penn at 5’8’’ stood on a chair to accomplish this mission. Penn was also the supplier of the original double knit orange blazer for then-Illini basketball coach Bob Blackman.

After a series of careers including owning Ye Olde Ice Cream Shoppe on 6th street on campus and other retail and sales jobs, in 1981, he was approached and accepted the opportunity to open a Norrell, now Spherion, staffing franchise.

Under Penn’s leadership, Norrell earned numerous awards from the corporate office as well as the local community including Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in 1996. Penn was also a committed volunteer and philanthropist in C-U including his most recent active participation as past president and Paul Harris Fellow of C-U Sunrise Rotary, member of the Foundation Board for the Don Moyer Boys & Girls Club where he was also a long-time board member, Champaign Parks Foundation Board member, 2002 United Way campaign chair, lifetime member of Optimist Club, and Phi Gamma Delta. He supported many other organizations in C-U in his 50 years here.

Penn and Barb were huge Illini fans and attended many U of I sporting events. They raised their two daughters to enjoy sports and were on the sidelines for their girls’ events throughout high school. Penn’s favorite sport was golf and he enjoyed teaching his girls and then all of his grandkids the sport he loved at his long time second home for 50 years the Urbana Golf and Country Club. Playing with his wife and family was always a highlight and he was still playing this winter in Florida.

Penn is survived by his beloved wife, Barb, his loving children Michele (Rob) Baker and Cindy (Mike) Somers and five grandchildren, Robby, Patrick, Justin, Chelsea, and Lainey. His sister Betty Bauer and three nephews Mark, Chris and Bruce Bauer also survive him. He will be missed by the C-U community and the individuals whose lives he touched.

A celebration of life “Party for Penn” will be held on Saturday May 18th at 5:30pm at the Urbana Golf and Country Club. Donations can be made in Penn’s memory to the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club – Penn Nelson Scholarship or to The Champaign Parks Foundation.

Condolences may be offered at www.morganmemorialhome.com.

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Service Information

Service Information

Date: Saturday, May 18, 2019

Time: 05:30 pm

Urbana Golf & Country Club

Address:

100 East Country Club Road
Urbana, Illiniois 61801
 

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