Obituary: Stephen Nelson

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Lawrence, Kansas

Stephen Nelson, 73, Lawrence, passed peacefully on June 21st at The Arbors Memory Care at Monterey Village to join his Lord.

Steve, son of Goldie and Homer Nelson grew up in Lawrence and graduated LHS in 1966, participating in band and theatre. An Eagle Scout, he spent summers in Tincup, Colorado as a counselor at Timberline Trails Boys Camp with time for horseback riding and mountain climbing. Steve had hopes of government work and world travel as he boarded a train for Washington, D.C. to attend the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where he would graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Affairs (BSFS) in 1970, working part-time in Congressional offices while he studied. That work for Congress encouraged him to return home to attend the KU School of Law, taking courses and internships in legislative law, but he still spent summers working back in D.C.

During the spring in 1973, Steve married his beloved, Dianna, became step-father to her daughter, graduated J.D., and moved his new family to D.C. to be Senior Legislative Assistant to the Hon. Larry Winn Jr., M.C. They did move for several months in the fall to Indianapolis, where Steve graduated the Adjutant General Officer Course, later retiring as a Captain, USAR. In Congress, after working for Rep. Winn, he served as Counsel on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and then the Committee on Intelligence, where he eventually held the position of Senior Counsel. In addition to his legislative duties, Steve participated in overseas study missions by members and staff to over 50 countries, fulfilling that dream of seeing the world. Colleagues praised Steve as a font of information, writing about his calmness and sanity, his brilliant parliamentary crafting and sage advice, and his ever-ready smile and keen sense of humor.

Steve retired after 30 years of government service and moved back to Lawrence once again, where he still remained busy becoming a “house husband.” He played “old guys” tennis; once finished undefeated in amateur World Team Tennis with his wife and daughter; judged LHS debate tournaments; lost a great deal of weight (he was honored at a super meeting in KC by Sarah, Duchess of York); became a Weight Watchers leader; volunteered at Theatre Lawrence where he acted in “Flaming Idiots” in 2005, and at the Dole Institute of Politics archives where he IDed photos of D.C. elite with his photographic memory. He continued to be a lifelong member of First Christian Church, volunteering when needed and serving as Treasurer and Elder. Steve was a gentle-gentleman – his sports were archery, fencing and tennis. He loved long walks, bike rides, music & singing, animals (he was the favorite of many family pets), movies (particularly the old classics of his youth), and television. He enjoyed reading several books at once of all different genres (science fiction, fantasy, westerns, and history were his favorites); celebrating Christmastime; practicing legislative law; painting a legion of D&D miniatures; playing table top and computer games; drinking and collecting fine wine; and taking family vacations. And whether busy on the Hill or relaxing in his later years, he always made time for his children by attending basketball games and plays; reading bedtime stories; creating scavenger hunts; playing games; moving his daughter in at the College of William & Mary; proofreading papers (including his son’s creative projects and his daughter’s dissertation); taking the family to the movies; serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster where he supported his son in also reaching the rank of Eagle and received district recognition for his work with first year scouts; and always being ready to help with whatever he could, whenever he could. He was a very friendly fellow, full of jokes and stories who could talk easily with anyone from anywhere, and repeatedly realized he’d visited wherever they were from. As dementia took his brilliant mind and his part in conversations, though, he never lost his faith.

Steve is survived by his wife Dianna, daughter Donna Binns, son Chris, and brother Donald. The family wishes to express gratitude for the care given Steve by the staff at the Arbors and VNA Hospice. No Services will be held. The family suggests memorial contributions to be made in Stephen’s name to First Christian Church, Dole Institute of Politics, or Theatre Lawrence in care of Warren McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044. Online condolences may be sent to

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