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In Memoriam: Rick Nelson

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rick Nelson Obituary Photo Richard E. (Rick) Nelson, P.E., M.ASCE, an active member of ASCE and UESI, co-chair of the Pipelines 2016 Conference, and past-chair of ASCE's UPAM Committee, passed away on September 1 at the age of 65. Rick had battled throat cancer in 2011, in which the cancer went into remission, but in 2015, the cancer returned.

Nelson was an early member of ASCE's newest institute, the Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute, serving as chair of the Underground Pipelines Asset Management Committee.

Nelson was a vice president and director of conveyance technology for CH2M Hill in Kansas City, where he worked for nearly 12 years after more than a decade with Black and Veatch. Prior, Rick helped launch the RJN Kansas City office which also afforded him the opportunity to earn his P.E. license. In 1986 Rick left RJN and began work at George Butler and Associates where he continued to excel in his field. From 1992-2005 Rick was Director of Infrastructure Planning at Black and Veatch. From March 2005 to 2016 Rick was with CH2M Hill (now CH2M) becoming a Global Conveyance and Infrastructure team leader and eventually a vice president.

Rick was born May 4th, 1951 in Lake Forest Illinois to Mark E. Nelson and Nancy A. Nelson. He has 3 siblings, Mark (Skooks) Nelson, David Nelson, and Debbie Curtis. Rick grew up in Lake Forest where he attended catholic grade school and then graduated from Lake Forest High School in 1969. He earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Bradley University and his master's in environmental engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Nelson is survived by his wife, Kathy, daughter, Katie, son, Josh, and five grandchildren, Audrey Caroline, Mark Joshua, Henry Joseph, Jackson Riley, and Sloan Hanson.

Scott C. Williams P.E., M.ASCE remarked:

"Rick was a consummate professional and his dedication to our craft was an inspiration to his fellow travelers here at CH2M HILL. He had a way of seeing directly to the core of any topic and acted decisively to resolve technical issues and to build team solutions.

Above all, it was Rick's people skills that endeared him to us. Rick was an honest, open, hilarious straight shooter who treated those around him with fairness and compassion. Rick will be sorely missed, but leaves behind a legacy of service, humor, and great character."

C. Douglas Jenkins, P.E., M.ASCE reflected:

"I first heard about Rick when he joined the company I work for in 2005, CH2M.  Rick was the Global Conveyance and Infrastructure Team Leader.  However, our paths did not cross paths physically until 2009 at the Pipelines (conference) in San Diego.  At Pipelines that year, Dr. Tom Iseley turned the reigns over to Rick to become the UPAM Committee Chair and I got to know Rick through this committee.

I do remember being quite nervous at the first meeting, I had heard a lot of things that Rick had done with not only Pipelines but through our company as well.  My nervousness was put at ease when Rick first smiled at me.  Rick had an infectious/contagious smile and one couldn't help but feel better about themselves after meeting with him.

Though we struggled (and are still struggling) over the years in our committee, the one thing that I do remember with Rick was his positive attitude and that one day somehow, we were going to accomplish what we set out to do.

As you may be aware Rick was an extremely private individual, here is a list of things that I've learned about him over the years and after his passing:

  • Favorite color - blue
  • Favorite season - winter
  • Favorite bird - Cardinal (which was hard for him to admit since we was a Cubs fan)
  • Favorite team - Da Bears 1985 team, the greatest football team God ever assembled, and of course the Jordan Bulls
  • Most important accomplishment - Getting his PE
  • Most satisfying moment - Climbing Mt. Rainer and Mt. Kilimanjaro with his children
  • Most disturbing event - the murder of his son Mark
  • Most joy - wife, children, grandchildren
  • He loved us all and wanted us to party on his behalf
Rick was a son, brother, father, husband, grandfather, teacher, mentor, coach, athlete, and friend.  He will be missed by all."

UESI president-elect Joseph P. Castronovo, P.E., F.ASCE reflected:

"Rick was a longtime friend, and a competitor for a number of years dating back to 1995.  In 2005, I was happy to see him move on to the firm I worked for, CH2M.  We were both very active in ASCE Pipeline Division and he made untold contributions to our industry.  Rick was a straight arrow guy and knew how to get things done.  A forward thinker and great person to be around.

Rick served on the Pipeline Division executive committee and was the chairman in 2001.  He did a great job getting the division to the next level and many initiatives were accomplished.  Rick never gave up his commitment to the Society and our profession. After his chairmanship responsibilities, Rick continued to be a volunteer for technical advancement and made contributions to the industry for the years going forward to the betterment of us all.

I recall the last time I saw Rick. He was walking down the hallway at the Baltimore Conference (2015 Pipelines) with a big smile on his face and we briefly talked.  A moment that I will not forget."

Share your memoires by providing a tribute to Rick and his family

by Frank Kim and Ben Walpole, ASCE News