MISSOULA – On a moonlit night, July 1, 2012, in a tragic auto accident, Derek Ross Nelson left his earthly body to explore the world of heaven. He was born June 22, 1990, at Community Medical Center in Missoula to Rick and Paige Nelson. Derek loved life passionately and his family even more.
From the minute he was born, he never stopped. He was a whirlwind of energy and love with a spirit for reckless adventure. He was a natural athlete with skills and ability in every sport he tried. In his youth he played Little Griz football, Little League baseball, Little Guy wrestling and basketball. By middle school, he decided to focus on wrestling, and he wrestled until he left Frenchtown High School in 2009. He always placed in the top levels and went to state three years in a row. He approached wrestling like he approached life: full out 100 percent. He touched the lives of his coaches and opponents and had a following across the state.
Derek attended Hawthorne and Hellgate elementary schools in his early years, transferring to Frenchtown in fifth grade. He attended there until leaving his senior year in January 2009 for White Sulphur Springs to live with his dad and work on a large cattle ranch.
Derek was a skilled ranch hand and worked on ranches in Frenchtown and White Sulphur Springs. Prior to his death, he was working at the Peterson Ranch in Frenchtown. He had just returned to the Missoula area from Cut Bank, where he had been an oil rig worker for Liquid Gold. Like life, he gave 100 percent to his employers with a work ethic that was unsurpassed. He was an outdoorsman through and through and loved being out working and playing in the wilds.
Derek was preceded in death by his maternal grandparents, Dale Ann Wood and Donald Mikkelson, and his step-grandfather Grant Smith. He is survived by his immediate family in Frenchtown, mother Paige Mikkelson-Smith, stepfather Shawn Smith and brothers Jordon Smith and Kyle Smith; his family in White Sulphur Springs, father Rick Nelson, stepmother Brenda Nelson, brother Seth Nelson, and sister Katie Nelson; his aunts, Staci Mikkelson and Rebecca Harmon (Jake); and his uncle Randy Nelson (Taunya). He is also survived by his paternal grandparents Gail and Barbara Nelson of Ronan and paternal great-grandparents Gail Nelson Sr. and Jeanne Nelson of Missoula.
Derek was fortunate in having a large extended family including his step-grandparents Sheldon Wood, Marilyn Smith, J. C. and Wendy Lowman and Sharon and Steve Boutilier, who also survive him. He is also survived by numerous aunts, uncles and cousins, too many to name here, who loved him and will miss him.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, July 6, at the Missoula Alliance Church, 100 E. Foss Court, off of Hillview Way. A potluck reception will follow at the church. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to help the family with the funeral costs.
Derek was an amazing son, grandson, brother, cousin and friend. He made friends wherever he went because he could talk to anyone and was loved by everyone and he loved them, too. All who knew him were touched by his spirit and outgoing nature. He will be forever missed.