A model hobby
Retired Marine veteran picks up new pastime
By Evan Wood
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Ninety-year-old local Marine veteran, Tom Nelson has picked up a new hobby – building homemade miniature models.
Nelson has made nine dollhouses, a handful of Ponderosa Log Cabins, and is currently working on his fifth barn.
“It gives me something to pass the time and I’d love to do it as long as I can,” Nelson said.
Six years ago, he started making these miniature playhouse models for some of his 11 great-grandchildren, 12 grandchildren, and four boys. Each dollhouse takes two months to create while the barns usually take one.
“It’s a long process, waiting for each piece to dry. All of the inside decorations are up to me to put together as well,” Nelson added.
One of his most recent projects – a red miniature barn – is on display at the Arborwood Lodge in Wisconsin Rapids.
“I was raised on a farm in upstate New York. That’s what I based that barn on,” Nelson said.
After spending 15 months in Korea as part of the Marine Corps Infantry, Nelson remained a Marine and worked in the communications department as a cryptographer. He retired after 24 years in the service, with the rank of E-9 – Master Gunnery Sergeant.
He then worked in the Chicago paper manufacturing industry until a recruiter brought him to the town of Adams for an open position.
“Where the heck is Adams, Wisconsin?” Nelson remembered saying at the time.
Once he started working in Adams, he moved to Wisconsin Rapids with his wife, his high school sweetheart. “I didn’t get to know many guys up here, but my wife played bridge with three groups so I got to know all the women,” he said.
Today, one of his sons, Tommy, helps take care of him due to Nelson’s limited mobility.
“I don’t go anywhere without my donkey now,” Nelson said about his walker.
Nelson hopes to raffle off a future dollhouse, with the proceeds going to his current assisted living community.
“Maybe we can have steaks for everybody!” Nelson exclaimed.