Del Nelson, 81, a carpenter and cabinetmaker who with his wife, Marianne, sold antiques for more than 25 years, died Tuesday in Flower Hospital from complications of a ruptured colon.
Mr. Nelson and his wife retired several years ago from their business, Hickory Knoll Antiques, which they operated from their Sylvania home.
The couple scoured the Pennsylvania countryside for unusual or primitive antiques, especially wooden, and brought them home to prepare them for sale.
"It was just the two of us. We did all our own refinishing, everything," Mrs. Nelson said.
From April through November, the couple sold their finds at the regular shows offered by the Ann Arbor Antiques Market.
"He just got the satisfaction of actually seeing a thing through from the beginning to the end," his wife said. "He could see a thing start off and see it finished and see it going into somebody's home. In a lot of jobs, you never see how it turned out."
Their granddaughter, Heidi Stechschulte, said, "They've always had a lot of energy. They loved the business, and they loved the antiques."
Mr. Nelson was a carpenter and cabinetmaker for Mayfair Lumber, later known as Lumber Suppliers. As the couple began collecting antiques, Mr. Nelson - pointing to the hickory tree on the knoll in their backyard - said if the couple ever had an antiques business, they'd call it Hickory Knoll, "never dreaming that we really would," Mrs. Nelson said.
Mr. Nelson retired from Lumber Suppliers in the early 1980s and devoted himself to the antiques' business.
Mr. Nelson was born in Zumber Falls, Minn. The family moved from Wisconsin to Toledo and, later, Sylvania. He was a graduate of the former Burnham High School.
He was an Army veteran of World War II and was selected for a special training program at the University of Chicago, part of the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb.
"It was very, very hushed, and you were really investigated before you could be in the program," Mrs. Nelson said.
Mr. Nelson later served in Missouri and in Texas in the signal corps and was part of the postwar occupation force in Japan.
Mr. Nelson went to a carpenters' school when he returned and worked several years for a company that developed subdivisions. He made time for woodworking away from the job too.
"All I would have to do if I wanted something made was to tell him what it would look like, maybe draw a little picture, and he would make it like I wanted it," his wife said.
Mr. Nelson was a 50-year member of First Church Unity, where he had been a board member, Sunday school superintendent, and teacher.
He was a 50-year member of Damascus Lodge, F&AM, of which he was worshipful master. He was a noble grand of the Odd Fellows Viking Lodge.
Surviving are his wife, Marianne, whom he married Oct. 31, 1943, and a granddaughter.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Reeb Mortuary, where the family will receive friends after 4 p.m. today. Damascus Lodge services will be at 7:30 tonight in the mortuary.
The family suggests tributes to First Church Unity.
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