Charles Nelson joins centennial club

By on March 12, 2014

Celebrates 100th birthday with family, friends and ice cream



Charles Nelson (center) celebrates his 100th birthday with family
and friends including his children (left to right) Jim, John and Bob
Nelson and Ruth Hannum.

Charles “Chuck” Nelson celebrated his 100th birthday on Sunday just the way he wanted-with family, friends and staff at BrethrenVillage.

Oh, and there was one other thing – ice cream. Nelson said that ice cream is one of his favorite things- along with salmon. And, he had both ice cream and salmon for lunch, and ice cream later in the day during his birthday party. As for a favorite ice cream flavor, he says that he doesn’t have a favorite flavor, but likes a bit of variety.

“I really liked the camaraderie of the party; some people had not met each other before, and it was fun seeing people mix,” Nelson explained.

His secret for a long life? His mother.

“She not only lived to be 94, so there must be some good genes there, but she also taught me to accept people as they are,” Nelson said with a smile.

His mother, Margaret MacLauchlan Nelson, was of Scottish descent. The Scottish heritage was represented at Nelson’s birthday party by distant cousins Audrey and Ian Morrison, who arrived from Scotland on Saturday to attend the party.

“We made the trip for the party, but while we’re here, we’ll visit New York City, which we haven’t seen before,” Audrey Morrison explained.

She added that she came in contact with the Nelson family through Nelson’s daughter, Ruth Hannum. Hannum had placed an ad in the Morrisons’s local newspaper seeking her Scottish relations. Over the past decade, the Morrisons and Hannums have visited one another.

“Celebrating a 100th birthday seemed like a great time for another visit,” Morrison said.

During the party the couple presented Nelson with a boutonnière that symbolized his Scottish heritage. It contained a plaid ribbon to symbolize the Scottish tartans, a thistle flower (thistle is the floral symbol of Scotland) and white heather. Morrison said that in Scotland, white heather is called “lucky heather.”

Charles Nelson was born in Schenectady, N.Y. to Margaret MacLauchlan Nelson and Charles Nelson. His only sibling, a younger sister named Elizabeth, is now deceased. During his childhood the family moved to Philadelphia, and he graduated from SimonGratzHigh School.

A member of the Church of the Brethren, he is a firm believer in the church’s principles of peace, reconciliation and family values. He was a conscientious objector in World War II. As an alternative to military service, he served the country in a different capacity – as an orderly in a mental hospital.

From the late 1940s until he retired in the early 1980s, he worked with the Lansdowne Co-op, serving as manager of the co-operative’s supermarket. In 1941, he married the love of his life, Cleo. The couple’s four children – Ruth, John and James (who are twins) and Robert – were raised in Lansdowne.

Charles and Cleo moved to BrethrenVillage in 1994, and sadly Cleo passed away shortly after the move. The couple had been married for 53 years. When they moved to BrethrenVillage, they lived in Founders Hall, the first building on campus; it was demolished in 2008 to pave the way for the health-care center where he now resides after living in other buildings on the campus.

When asked about how he came to choose Brethren Village, Nelson explained that not only is the retirement community affiliated with his church, Church of the Brethren, but Cleo’s family had been from York, and her mother, the late Mary Martha Pfaltzgraff, had been a resident at the retirement community as was Cleo’s brother and sister-in-law, the late Roy and the late Violet Pfaltzgraff Additionally, Nelson’s daughter, Ruth and her husband, Bill, are planning on moving to the retirement community later this year-when that occurs, Ruth will be the third generation of her family to do so. And, hopefully, she and her family will be able to spend many more happy birthdays with her father.


Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at





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