Austin Remembers Man Who Let Their Voices Be Heard

Updated: 08/01/2014 6:55 PM
Created: 08/01/2014 6:54 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- The Mower County Fair opens on Tuesday, but when it does, it will be without one of its most memorable figures.

Last week, Austin-native Joel Nelson passed away at the age of 64.

The owner of Nelson Sound Electronics, Nelson was best known for his time at the Mower County Fair where he worked for nearly 40 years, setting up equipment and running the sound system for concerts and performances.

Nelson was also a staple at many of the other fairs across the region, but those who worked with him said business always came second.

"First and foremost, [he was] a friend, a mentor, someone that taught me that business is partially the event, and a whole lot more about people,” said Justin Bickler, who worked for Nelson for about 25 years. “We never actually talked about money, it was all about taking care of whatever they needed at the time."

But it wasn't just the fairs, Nelson also played an integral role in the Miss Minnesota pageants held in Austin, and traveled around the country working on similar events.

His family said his love of electronics began at Austin High School where he delivered projectors to teachers after school.

"I think he'd always had an affinity for electronics and sound,” said Nancy Mathisen, Nelson’s daughter. “He kind of found that niche a little bit and started tinkering with it."

With many around Austin extending their condolences over the past week, those who knew him best said it's clear Nelson’s impact reached far beyond the sound of his speakers.

"There are very few people, I can count on my hands, that can go by a first name,” Bickler said. “And Joel was a single name, a household name in the community of Austin and beyond."

“He was an institution, kind of, in the community,” Mathisen said. "He made an impact on so many people and that's just really special to hear."

Joel Nelson