Blue Skies, Black Death (Roger Nelson)

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I met Roger last year at Nationals. Despite all the things I'm sure he had to do, he spent around 2 hours talking to my teammate and me, about various things, showing us around, etc.-- he definitely made a point to get to know as many as he could, and make us all feel welcome at Skydive Chicago. The world would be a better place with more people like Roger Nelson. Spread the love! Blue Skies, Roger-- thank you for everything!!! :$


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6-9-2003 at 11:06 AM

Memorial Service for Roger Nelson
Monday, June 16th, 2003
Memorial Jump at 12:00 p.m.
Services at 1:00 p.m. (Outside if weather permits)

Everyone is invited to attend and stay as long as you wish. Your prayers are greatly appreciated.
And business has resumed.

God Bless!

Missy Nelson
Skydive Chicago, Inc.

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My sincere condolences. Even though I didn't know Roger Nelson, he was truly admired and loved by all, judging by the wonderful stories being told on this forum.


Sometimes we're just being Humans.....But we're always Human Beings.

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I've tried a bunch of times to pound out what I'm feeling and it's still a mess. I'm just going to post The Lesson of the Moth for now

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
and fry himself on the wires

why do you fellows
pull this stunt i asked him
because it is the conventional
thing for moths or why
if that had been an uncovered
candle instead of an electric
light bulb you would
now be a small unsightly cinder
have you no sense

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it
we get bored with the routine
and crave beauty
and excitement
fire is beautiful
and we know that if we get
too close it will kill us
but what does that matter
it is better to be happy
for a moment
and be burned up with beauty
than to live a long time
and be bored all the while
so we wad all our life up
into one little toll
and then we shoot the roll
that is what life is for
it is better to be part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty
our attitude toward life
is come easy go easy
we are like human beings
used to be before they became too civilized
to enjoy themselves

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter

i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have half the happiness and twice
the longevity
but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

-by Don Marquis

D. James Nahikian

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I am sorry to say, I never met Roger, but from what you all are saying, I sure wish I had. May God grant his family the peace that comes when you see a formation against a sunset....peace of the sky. I can tell.........its a sad day fopr skydiving. Bill Cole

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It took me awhile to put in words a small portion of what I felt with Roger's passing I haven't ever posted here, but I wanted to share what I just posted on Skydive Chicago's board.

I am just now coming out of the haze, the shock, although the sadness still remains. As with so many others, Roger touched my life inexplicably. He was my teacher and mentor in skydiving from the beginning and he changed my life through what he taught me, along with all of you at Skydive Chicago. Ten years later, I am at a new home drop zone in my home state with a new skydive family, Skydive Dallas, but Skydive Chicago will always be my first home, and I seriously doubt that anyone can change the course of my life as much as Roger Nelson.

Roger Nelson – innovative, dynamic, controversial – his passing is a loss that rips through the very seam of the skydive community worldwide. As controversial as he could be, Roger worked and fought for his beliefs and innovations to the limits and was strong enough to challenge tradition. Through his courage and audacity, he changed the way skydiving is taught and helped create what the sport is today. Roger was a visionary and he was strong and bold enough to build forward and not stop until his vision was a reality.

Ten years ago in August, before Roger’s dream of a “skydiving resort” was built, I did my first tandem. Roger was my tandem master. I always wanted to skydive, but never intended to be a skydiver. I screamed and yelled through freefall and all during the canopy ride. When we landed, Roger had this huge grin on his face and turned and said, “She’s a screamer!”

As most of you know, Roger truly enjoyed the excitement and energy of the first-timers and newbies. He remembered people and loved to embrace the new skydivers into the fold and teach them to fly – share a world beyond, his world. For instance, a month after my first tandem, I went back for my second. I was hooked. Friends were there with me for moral support, but we were on a weather hold. Having tasted that new thrill, I couldn’t wait. Although my friends couldn’t return with me the next day, I proceeded to Skydive Chicago by my lonesome, not knowing anyone there. My jump was paid for. I remember clearly my heart pounding faster than normal almost in my throat, the light-headedness from breathing a little to quickly, and then walking around the corner to find out what I needed to do to go on my second Tandem. This time I was getting the video! Roger was lounging in a golf cart in front of the hanger – waiting for the next load, no doubt. He saw me walking around the corner and lit up with his dynamic smile and said, “Shayne! You’re one of us, aren’t you?!?” A month had passed! He had done how many tandems and taught how many students, and yet he remembered me by name! He embraced me into the skydiving world and it became mine as well. This memory I share with you and it will always be a part of me.

Roger saw potential in me and wanted me to skydive. When I was going through student status and shortly after and I got overly anxious, he would coach me and teach me and build my confidence. He was patient and taught without belittling. Unlike many of you, I wasn’t able to quickly excel in the sport due to life events and lack of time, but Roger always was there. When I got married, we threw people instead of rice. Roger gave us the demo as a wedding present. During the marriage, and when I was barely staying current in the sport, Roger always had a hug and a genuine welcome. One time, before I left the sport for nearly two years, I drove up (this is at the new facility) and Roger said to me, “Thanks for being part of the Family!” Even though I couldn’t jump like I wanted, he still considered me “one of us.”

Although I wasn’t skydiving often, I watched the new drop zone being built from the ground up by the hands of skydivers. Roger, the businessman. The barterer. I was one of the lucky ones that got to jump into the new facility before it was open. I was there for the 300-way when you all set the 246-way world record. When I wasn’t skydiving, I was there in spirit and stayed abreast of the current DZ gossip and news. I can’t think about skydiving and not have a memory of Roger and Skydive Chicago. Ten years ago– thanks to Roger, I was reborn.

After my divorce and after having isolated myself for a while, I went back out to Skydive Chicago just over a year ago to get recurrent and to say goodbye before moving back to Texas. Roger was off at another boogie, and the weather was cold and rainy. It was April. I moved to Texas and returned to skydiving in full force. I always intended to come back to Skydive Chicago to see Roger and let him know I was jumping again. I never got to say goodbye, but I know he’d be proud.

Like all of you, old and new, I have so many memories to share. They keep flooding back into my mind. Suffice it to say that Roger Nelson will live on in our memories and in the skydiving community and he will continue to “Spread the Love.” With the tenacity gifted to few, Roger Nelson accomplished what he set out to do in this world. Although we might not understand it now, he fulfilled God’s purpose for him. He was lucky enough to see his dreams come alive and now he passes his vision and legacy to Missy, Rook, and to all of us.

Spread the Love – that’s what he wanted!

My love to all of you,

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Welcome Shayne!

Beautiful words! Thanks for posting them here. I've missed you, and I'm glad to hear you are jumping again and you sound happy and well! I know Roger would be pleased!

Peace & Blue skies!


(Your once upon a time neighbor in the campground...)

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How are you and Gomey doing? I miss you and everyone else as well. But you know the skydiving family; it extends through out all drop zones. You would love the people at Skydive Dallas - they are fabulous!

It just hurts that I never got to say goodbye. But I know Roger now knows - and like you said, he would be pleased.

I was going to call Mattress and stop by because I'll be there the end of June for a wedding and a visit, I was going to pick up my old gear I was hoping he would sell. Now, I'll be stopping by more to pay my respects. It's going to be hard.

I'm planning on Sunday the 29th, so if you're there, I'll be able to see you. I won't be bringing my gear, though.

I wish I could be there Monday. Please give everybody my love!

Blue Skies and Rainbows,

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Still thinking of ya all the time Roger FB#2. Glad I was able to have you as a friend.


It is always good to remember friends.


Also good to remember that debt of gratitude all them sit/free flyers owe the man who got some real momentum going for the idea of unconventional or non-belly freefall.


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Five years. Hard to believe. Seems to be a lifetime ago now and yet when you say "5 years" it seems just yesterday.

That is so true Chris.

Wow is all I can say to what i have read here. I never knew Roger, I waited 13 years to finally make my first tandem (May 2007). Everyone's stories make me wish even more that I would have came down a little earlier and had the opportunity to meet him.

I give a lot of credit to Rook, Missy and the entire staff for making SDC what it is. I am sure times were very difficult in the beginning but this dropzone has become home for many of us beginners. It seems like, no matter what happens on a jump, when you land on the ground, there is someone there to help you out. Even if your looking at both your main and reserve and you off in some plowed over cornfield as Johnny Z shows up to see if your alright and in need of a ride!

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