Vernon “Vern” Nelson 3-6-24

Vernon Lewis Nelson died peacefully on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 at his home in Rockland, ID, surrounded by his family. He bravely fought pancreatic cancer for 18 months and through it always remained optimistic, positive, and strong in his faith in God’s eternal plan.
Vern was born Jan. 9, 1953 in Pocatello, ID, to Helen Robinson Nelson and Grover Nelson. He was raised in Rockland and as a youth attended the Rockland school where he always excelled academically and in athletics including baseball, football, basketball, and track. He grew up playing on the banks of Rock Creek, riding horses, working on his family farm with his father, and loved spending summers with his uncle and aunt (DeVere and LaRayne Nokes) exploring Yellowstone National Park. He was proud to be a fifth generation Idahoan, proud of his Rockland roots, and loved being a lifelong Rockland Bulldog.
After graduating from Rockland High School in 1971, Vern attended Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Agricultural Economics and Finance. His college years at BYU were among some of his favorite memories. He was an avid BYU Cougar sports fan and regularly made trips to Provo to watch football and basketball games – once even taking his young daughters trick-or-treating down the candy aisle of the BYU bookstore, letting them pick out as much candy as they wanted, when Halloween and game day collided.
While attending BYU, Vern’s love for basketball helped him meet the love of his life Kathryn (Katie) Frioux. They were in the laundry room at their apartment complex when Vern spotted a tall, beautiful, red head with a great laugh who he thought would be the perfect recruit for his intramural basketball team. Vern was in for a surprise when Katie showed up at the next game and couldn’t shoot or play ball. After the game they went on their first date, and Katie retired from her short-lived intramural basketball career.
Vern and Katie were married in the Oakland LDS Temple on Aug. 27, 1977. They spent their honeymoon in Hawaii, and it was the beginning of many amazing family vacations in the Hawaiian Islands. Last summer, after 46 years of vacationing in the islands, Vern’s kids finally convinced him to conquer his fear of heights and take a doors off helicopter tour over the Napali Coast of Kauai…and he loved it!!
As newlyweds, Vern and Katie settled in Vern’s hometown where he worked for Idaho Bank and Trust as an agricultural loan officer and later started his own real estate appraisal business. Vern loved the Rockland Valley and was always very active in the community. Over the years he served in many leadership positions including the Rockland School Board, the Rockland City Council, the Boy Scouts of America, his LDS Church ward, and as Chairman of the Power County Republican Party.
Vern had a lifelong passion for coaching and helping the youth. Since 1981, Vern has coached hundreds of kids and teenagers in Little League baseball, American Legion baseball, and through the Rockland High School girls’ basketball program. The pinnacle of his 28-years of coaching high school girls’ basketball was winning the first two state championships in Rockland history. He was so proud of all the teams he coached over the years, but he was ecstatic for the Rockland girls and community when they won the 2020 and 2022 state basketball tournaments.
Being a coach meant so much to Vern. He loved working with the kids and seeing them excel. He loved the parents and fans who came out each week to cheer on the youth in their communities. He loved the friendships he formed over the years with the referees, coaches, and parents from other teams. He loved the lifelong lessons that are learned through athletics, sportsmanship, and teamwork. While most people avoid talking to the media, Vern’s favorite calls each week during basketball season were with the sports reporters covering the Bulldogs so he could brag about his players and make sure they got credit for their hard work and success.
Working, serving, and coaching in the community was always a perfect fit for Vern because if you knew him, you know he never met a stranger. He always made friends easily and always loved people. A running family joke around the Nelson house is you couldn’t go anywhere with Vern without him knowing someone or making a new friend. He always had kind words and encouragement to share with everyone he ran across (and a sports update, book review, or very accurate weather report – he really missed his calling as a meteorologist).
Vern was proud of his five children, their spouses, and his grandchildren. He showed his love for his children by trying to give them opportunities he didn’t have as a child and always being there for all their activities (we truly couldn’t think of many sports events, school events, or church events dad missed over the years. The few he did miss were only because two kids had competing events, so he and mom had to divide and conquer). As his children became adults, Vern continued supporting them by always showing interest in their careers and hobbies. He frequently bragged about his kids to his kids!
Vern was an avid gardener and got his enthusiasm for gardening from his Grandpa Joe Nelson. He loved helping his son Andrew each spring at the Rockland High School FFA greenhouse and liked checking on the plants, watering them, and puttering around the greenhouse. He never saw a tomato he didn’t like so any orphan tomato plants left behind at the FFA greenhouse sale always found a home in Vern’s garden. He enjoyed reading and was a history and World War II enthusiast. He loved traveling with his family all over the USA and world. Last summer he checked off one of his bucket list dreams of spending a month in Europe visiting WWII sites in England, Normandy, Bastogne, and Luxembourg (the Irish in Ireland met their match with talkative, never met a stranger Vern!!).
He is survived by his wife Kathryn; his five children Sarah, Beth (Matthew Schumann), Cameron (Kassidy), Andrew (Kylee), and Matthew (Hailey); and his nine grandchildren Ryan, Knox, Tate, Mac, Maddox, Camden, Daysi, Olivia, and Summer. He was preceded in death by his parents Grover and Helen Nelson; his brother Gordon Farnsworth; and his mother and father-in-law George and Jean Frioux.
Friends were welcomed for visitation on Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 10 until 10:45 a.m. at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 405 E Shoshone St., Rockland, ID, followed by a funeral service at 11 a.m. and interment at the Rockland Cemetery. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Rockland High School FFA. Vern loved supporting the Rockland youth. Arrangements by Davis-Rose Mortuary, American Falls. To order flowers, or to share condolences, memories, and photos, please visit

Thanks for reading!

Read more in this week's print edition.Subscribe Today!