A Message from Craig Cook - Childhood friend of Gary Nelson

The Yeoman has waited a long time to hear from someone who knew Gary Nelson personally, and finally in August 2004, Craig Cook decided to do a Web Search for "Gary Nels Nelson" and found our memorial to Gary. This is his E-Mail to the Yeoman, which he gave permission to post. I sincerely hope it touches you as much as it has touched me!

Subject: Gary Nels Nelson


I can't tell you what led me to your website Memorial to Gary Nelson...I just don't know. I had an unexplained urge to do a Google search for Gary Nels Nelson today, and eventually ended up here. I want to let you know I was one of Gary Nels Nelson's closest friends (we had a group of half a dozen guys our parents dubbed The Rat Pack back in our days at Glendale High).

I'm the guy who went on to be Editor of the Glendale College "El Vaquero" newspaper, and sadly wrote the article about Gary's death for that paper as well as The Glendale News Press.

One afternoon in June, 1966, I received a phone call from neighbors living across the street from Gary's home. I had just come home from the beach with my girlfriend (now my wife). The caller told me two Marines were parked in front of Gary's parents' home, waiting from them to return. The neighbor had
approached the Marines and was told they were there to deliver the dreadful news to Gary's parents. They called me hoping I could come there quickly.

I phoned our mutual best buddy, Dick Webb, and told him the horrible news. I then raced to Dick's apartment and picked him up. We drove to Gary's house and waited with the Marines. We didn't want Gary's parents to be alone when they heard the news.

My blood is running cold at this very moment, remembering that terrible day over 38 years ago. It was surreal. Gary's parents drove up their driveway, without noticing the Marines' car parked in the street. Then, as they exited their garage, they saw the two somber Marines walking toward them. Without a word, Gary's mother gasped, screamed, and collapsed in the driveway. Gary's dad, also, took the news as hard as one would expect. Dick and I did our best to console them, but it was a futile attempt.

Days later, right in the middle of final exams at college, I missed my History final to go to the Wee Kirk of the Heather at Forest Lawn, for Gary's funeral. It was a full military service, complete with the gun salute reserved for a fallen hero. I cried like a baby, and then returned to choke my way through other exams. That day is burned into my memory as if it were yesterday.

A few days later, I wrote a letter to Phil and Shirley Nelson, reminding them of what a great guy their Gary had been... and how his friends loved him. Somehow, I hoped, hearing happier tales might help the healing. I don't know if I had an impact, but I needed them to know a lot of people cared.

Gary was one hell of a guy. He was handsome, athletic, intelligent, personable, a fine athlete, and a truly Gung Ho Marine. He was a credit to his uniform, and a hero to his nation.

I've long ago lost touch with the Nelsons, and now live outside Atlanta, GA. But, if they somehow ever learn about this note I'm writing... which you are free to post if you wish... then I want them to know this: Gary has never been forgotten by his friends! He's remembered often, and spoken of with reverence.

God Bless the Nelsons, and God Bless Gary's soul in Heaven. We will never forget!

Craig Cook
[email protected]

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