Obituary for Reginald Kenneth Nelson

Reginald Kenneth Nelson was born on August 12, 1937.  He was one of seven children - three girls and four boys. 

Val and Reg Nelson.

Val and Reg Nelson.

Reg was born to hard times during the Depression. His father and grandfather were both ANZACs and had returned home severely affected both physically and mentally from the war. 

As the Depression of 1929 further impacted on the family the hard times continued.  In those days you needed to be fairly self-sufficient to survive, they had cows, chooks and worked hard growing their own fruit and vegetables. 

Close family bonds were formed as the children grew up together which lasted a lifetime.  

Reg, as a child had a fascination with fire, and the fire brigade was called to put out the hedge on a number of occasions.  This may have been the influence toward him eventually becoming part of the fire brigade in later years.

While growing up Reg worked delivering milk by horse and cart.  He then obtained an apprenticeship as a plumber doing his schooling at Box Hill Technical College. 

It was while working as a plumber and fixing a gas heater in a residence that a young lady walked through by the name of Val Smith, Reg spoke to her but she walked out saying that she didn’t talk to strangers! 

She must have changed her mind because they starting seeing one another from then on.  Once he completed his apprenticeship he was then called up for Military Service.

Reg and Val were married in the late 1950’s and moved to their family home in Langwarrin Victoria.  There they had their three sons David, Robin and Tim. 

It was at this time that Reg established his plumbing business. His younger brother Frank coming to paint his truck with a picture of a plumber in white overalls.  He worked soldering milk cans for local dairy farmers and as his reputation grew as an honest and hard worker then, so did his business.

After a massive fire at the local petrol station,  Reg joined the local Fire Brigade and in 1959 was promoted up the ranks to captain where he held the position for 20 years.  '

He then became a Group Officer with the Country Fire Authority (CFA).   Having a natural ability for all types of building and inventing, Reg would look at a problem and immediately start working out how it could be fixed and “there wasn’t much he wouldn’t tackle”.   This saw him come up with many amazing inventions over the years. 

Aside, from having their role in Fire Suppression, houses included, the Langwarrin Brigade became involved with road accident rescue after attending the scene of an horrific crash where two young girls died because they were pinned in their car and the team couldn’t get to them.  

Reg using his creative mind invented what could only be described as a “Large Can Opener” to take the roof off a car in 3 minutes. This was made from a World War II car.  Today this large can opener remains mounted on the wall of the Langwarrin Fire Station.   This invention supporting them, until they eventually were able to purchase the “Jaws of Life”. 

Reg also developed protocols, procedures and rescue manuals, to assist with their ongoing Training and Development.  Today, the Langwarrin Fire Brigade still have an active role in Road Accident Rescue.

In 1985 Langwarrin’s loss was our gain when Reg and Val moved to Bendoc. 

This meant they would also be closer to family that had already moved to the area.  Reg and the family worked hard to build the home where they were to live. 

One of his friends from the CFA recalling the time he was up here on holidays and helping Reg with the heavy steel trusses for the upstairs flooring and having no crane, but trying to get the upstairs windows in place.  It took a lot of luck and some very creative work to get things in place without a disaster occurring.

Following the move to Bendoc, Reg became Fire Control Officer for the Bombala Shire Area in 1987. 

With his skills and knowledge we were lucky to have Reg.  We had some major fires to manage at times, equipment was upgraded with adjustments made to make them more efficient.  

Fire Stations were built and in some cases, some of these fire stations also became a meeting place for the community.  Reg worked tirelessly for the area.  Working and coordinating with many other fire agencies.  He believed in the principle of hitting a fire hard and fast and not playing around until it got out of control. 

Having Reg organising crews and Val manning the radio they were an amazing team.  They got to spend part of their weekends with their Rural Fire Service families and joined in with their social activities.

This continued until health problems forced Reg to retire.  So they relocated back to Mt Evelyn in Victoria again to be around family and closer to more tertiary health facilities.  

In 2012 his beloved wife Val passed away and Reg really struggled with her loss.  Accompanied and encouraged by his family Reg managed to take a trip to Hawaii and back which he enjoyed immensely and this helped lift his spirits.

Reg’s health slowly deteriorated over time and on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 Reg passed away peacefully with his family by his side.. 

Reflections during his funeral service included a member of the CFA recalling the time that his wife and two children had moved in next door to Reg & Val when they were in Langwarrin.  They only had a small shed to live in with no hot running water, very little heating,  very little building skills and were as poor as a “church mice”.  

But Reg and Val called in to welcome them to the neighborhood and he told how Reg would turn up each weekend and help and show him how to make his shed livable, turning up with a secondhand water heater and various other bits and pieces to help them make their little home comfortable. 

Val would turn up with biscuits or baked goodies.  Over this time he said “Reg didn’t just bring me fish. He taught me how to fish!”

This, was just one of the many similar stories that various people recalled.   It was evident by the representation of CFA members that after all these years Reg was still held in very high regard in their area.  

In his retirement Reg continued to invent various things in his workshop at home.  He continued to generously give advice when and where he could when asked. 

He was named Dinpop by Andrew his eldest grandchild because he couldn’t pronounce grand pop at the time and the name stuck and he remained Dinpop to his 10 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.  

The Nelson Family coat of arms bears the words Faith and Work.  Reg lived by this, assisting and giving so much to the community.

He will be remembered for many years not just as our Fire Control Officer but as someone who  “Tried hard to make our world a better place”  I feel proud and privileged to have known him.

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