Dr. Stanley Earl Nelson, whose life journey carried him from a working class upbringing in NorthEast Washington, D.C., to Dunbar High School, to Howard University Dental School to a successful practice on New York City’s Central Park South, and later to residencies in ashrams all over the world, including our family home on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, died on Sept. 6, 2016. He was 100 and a half years old.
A man noted for his elegance and charm, Dr. Nelson was a lover of the good life, good food, music, women, his family, and all the natural beauty he could summon. A pioneer in reconstructive dentistry, Dr. Nelson was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, taught at New York University, was an active supporter of the civil rights movement, and founded the American Institute for Preventive Dentistry.
Dr. Nelson first visited the Vineyard with his wife, A’Lelia Ransom Nelson, and their four children in 1955, and like so many others fell in love with the Island. The family returned every summer, renting houses until he bought the iconic home on the corner of Ocean Park overlooking Nantucket Sound. He lived on the Island year-round for a number of years, and was a familiar figure shirtless, wearing overalls, often with a flower tucked behind his ear. Stanley Nelson was known by many who enjoyed the fabulous parties he hosted in his attic loft.
He was a world traveler who in the end came back to New York City, a place he loved that loved him back, where he lived his last decade and died at home with his son, Stanley Nelson Jr., and his daughter-in-law Marcia Smith, who survive him.
He is survived by a family who will never forget him: his younger brother, Dr. Howard Nelson Jr., also a dentist; two daughters, Lynn Nelson and her husband, Gregory Smith; his son Stanley Nelson, Jr. and his wife Marcia Smith; Jill Nelson and her husband, Flores A. Forbes; a son, Ralph Nelson, and his wife Susanna Witte; and five grandchildren, Sunshine Muse, Olivia Nelson, Max Nelson, and Nola and Kai Nelson, and two great-grandchildren, Busayo and Bodhi Bird-Maqubela.
We ask that you celebrate Stanley’s wonderful and long passionate life with us by playing James Brown; any tune will do — though “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” was a favorite — and dancing — like he always did — with joyful abandon.