Nelson—Blaine William Nelson, 77, on Sept. 28, 2020, from pancreatic cancer, at home in El Paso, Tex. Nancy Neptune Nelson, Blaine’s wife of more than 56 years, was by his side. Blaine was born on February 2, 1943, to Thomas and Grace Nelson in Portland, Ore. As a high school student, Blaine had the unique experience of living on-site at one of the first halfway houses in the nation serving men released from prison. His parents directed the house for American Friends Service Committee.
Blaine and Nancy met as teenagers on a 1962 peace walk. They married in 1964 at La Jolla (Calif.) Meeting, where Nancy was a member. Peace, civil rights, and social justice issues were always important in their lives. As a young family, Blaine and Nancy and their children lived in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Tucson before moving to El Paso in 1973.
Printing was Blaine’s early career path before he embarked on a career teaching government and political science. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, Northridge and a master’s degree in government from the University of Arizona.
Blaine was a professor of government and political science at El Paso Community College from 1973 to 2011. He was an early faculty senate president and the only faculty member to serve on the steering committee with college administrators and community leaders, organizing a successful construction bond and tax election in September 1974. The funds generated made possible the construction of the college’s first campuses and the ongoing operation of the college. Moreover, through Blaine’s efforts, this successful election led to modification of the law in Texas, changing the voting requirements for bond and taxing elections such that all registered voters’ ballots were to be counted, not just the ballots of property owners.
Blaine was among the group of instructors who opened the Valle Verde Campus of El Paso Community College in 1978. In addition to teaching, he served as the social sciences instructional administrative leader and helped to develop two-year degree programs for AA degrees in history, political science, sociology, and the social sciences. Later, Blaine worked to develop distance learning, particularly through online instruction. Blaine loved college teaching and was dedicated to the thousands of students whose lives he touched for 38 years.
Among his many interests were sports, crossword puzzles, good food, good conversation, and travel. Whether traveling with Nancy or on his own, Blaine was an avid and skilled photographer. As recently as March 2020, he and Nancy visited one of their favorite cities, New Orleans.
Blaine was a treasured part of the El Paso Quaker community for nearly a half century. His transfer of membership from La Jolla (Calif.) Meeting in 1974 made him the second recorded member of El Paso (Tex.) Meeting. He served the meeting as clerk, treasurer, acting corresponding secretary, newsletter editor, convener of the Building and Grounds Committee, and on clearness committees for membership and marriage. He worked to solve problems and create opportunities in the meeting and in the wider community. All of his efforts showed a consistently graceful blend of initiative, creativity, and modesty. Blaine was a builder and sustainer.
Blaine was preceded in death by his parents and his only sibling, Erik Nelson. He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Nancy Neptune Nelson; his adult children, Bruce (Ann) Nelson and Cynthia Nelson (Jacob Armengol); six grandchildren; sister-in-law Susan Neptune-Townsend; and brother-in-law John Neptune.