Commander Thomas Lane “Nasty” Nelson, United States Navy (retired), of Midlothian, TX, passed away peacefully in his sleep Aug 27, 2022.
Tom was born Jan 11, 1936 to William George and Eleanor Gray Nelson (Boyle) in Philadelphia, PA. He graduated from the private George School, in Philadelphia, PA, where he excelled in swimming and diving, earning a diving scholarship to Penn State. He decided instead to join the United States Air Force to serve his country. During his first assignment, he met his future wife Carol Jean Lemmon of Weston, ID, at a USO dance in San Francisco, CA. He was soon baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They were married civilly on December 17, 1955 in Weston, ID, and later sealed in the Los Angeles Temple on June 15, 1956. Tom and Jean were married for 66 years before her death earlier this year. Jean was truly the everlasting love of his life. Their relationship was one for the ages and a sterling example of love and kindness to each other.
After their marriage, Tom was discharged from the Air Force and attended Brigham Young University graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. In the next few years, Tom earned an additional bachelor’s and two master’s degrees. With an ambition to be a Navy pilot landing on aircraft carriers, Tom enlisted to attend Naval Officer Candidate School, graduating number one in his class. He was then selected for and attended the intense Naval Flight School, again he graduated at the top of his class, earning the coveted Wings of Gold.
Upon completion of flight training, Tom was assigned to NAS Lemoore, CA, flying the A-1 Skyraider and later the A-7 Corsair II. Similar to the call sign “Maverick” in the Top Gun movies, Tom was given the call sign “Nasty” because it was the absolute opposite of his behavior. He did not smoke, drink, swear, tell dirty jokes…. He accepted and wore the call sign with honor. Tom served three tours of duty in Viet Nam flying over 300 combat missions where he developed a reputation as an aggressive, skilled and courageous aviator and leader. He also served as a test pilot, Top Gun (attack phase) instructor, nuclear delivery pilot, admiral’s aide, squadron XO and finally squadron commander. Tom was admired and well respected by all the men who served with and under him. He flew numerous aircraft, from helicopters to F-14 Tomcat fighters, amassing over 8000 hours and 1000 carrier landings. He received several awards and commendations for his courage under fire and dedication to duty.
Wanting to spend more time with his family, Tom retired from the military in 1978 after more than 24 years of service. He then joined Piper Aerostar as Chief of Logistics moving to Santa Maria, CA. Tom then made his move to Duncanville, TX, to work in succession for LTV Corporation as a Logistics Manager for the A-7 Corsair II, then Tennant Enterprises and finally Northrup, working on the B-2 Stealth Bomber project which was strictly Top Secret. Even his family had no idea what he was working on until the B-2 reveal day. Tom and Jean moved to California and later Sedalia, MO, to support B-2 operations at Whiteman AFB. Finally, Tom and Jean felt that after so many years away from family, it was time to retire and return to Texas, where most of their family lived. They eventually settled in Midlothian.
Tom was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints religion, serving in numerous positions and twice serving missions with Jean. With all his success and accomplishments, Tom was most proud of his family. He was a loving and caring husband, father, and grandfather and even though gone for long periods of time serving his country, he ensured that his time home was family time. He had a reputation of unwavering honesty and unquestionable ethics in all his dealings and left a powerful impression on those who knew him as being a man of uncompromising morals and a loyal and faithful friend. Tom embodied the teaching found in 1 Nephi 3:7 (Book of Mormon), “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded.”
Tom was preceded in death by his dear wife Jean; son Lane; daughter Janet; grandson Steven; great-granddaughter Emma Jean; son-in-law Michael; his mother; father and brothers Bill and Michael.
He is survived by daughter Jean E’ and husband Craig Gray of Midlothian, TX; son Bill (Dick) and wife Jennifer Nelson of Clayton, WA; daughter Catherine and husband Brian Kohl of Layton, UT; son Brett and wife Shannon Nelson of Brisbane, Australia; son Aaron and fiancé Kim of Midlothian, TX; sisters Jeanne and Marion; brother Quentin; and many, many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren too numerous to mention. Tom was the patriarch of a progeny numbering close to 60. His love and friendship touched the lives of many and will be sorely missed by all. We can take comfort knowing he is reunited in the loving arms of all who proceeded him.