Dale Nelson has lived in his home in Rancho Santa Fe for half a century. The 92-year-old Nelson recently celebrated his 50-year anniversary in the house he moved his family into back in November 1967.
Nelson, a World War II veteran who served in the Air Force, has an American flag proudly on display on his gate and the wooden sign carved “The Nelsons” welcomes guests from the road down a sloped drive to a pale yellow Ranch house he calls “April Cottage”.
The home has a peaceful side garden and planters full of succulents and greenery abound. It is surrounded by an orchard, the lemon and lime trees bearing smaller fruit this season, he says, not allowing a visitor to leave empty-handed. The front gate opens to an interior patio and pool, where Nelson likes to sit in the sunshine or read in the shade.
Nelson believes he is among the few to have lived in their Rancho Santa Fe abodes as long as he has. He said sadly that his Christmas card list has shortened as he has lost friends and others have moved away.
“I love living here. I’m going to live here until I die,” said Nelson, who wishes to be buried in the orchard.
Nelson grew up on a farm in Iowa and moved to California from Minnesota in 1959. He met his future wife Beverly at the University of Minnesota, where he was attending on the GI Bill.
“She was the cutest girl in school,” Nelson said. “She was a beauty, from a family of six sisters and I got the pick of the litter.”
The Nelsons were living in La Jolla with their two children when she saw an ad in the newspaper for homes for sale in Rancho Santa Fe. She visited and fell in love with the community and convinced Dale to move — he too loved everything about Rancho Santa Fe.
“There wasn’t anywhere like this,” Nelson said. “I’ve seen so many things change. The youth has changed the most. When we moved here this was known as a good retirement community, mostly elderly people.”
As the years passed, he said younger families have moved in with kids — “That’s what has changed, the age of the population.”
Nelson was involved in the community, serving on the Rancho Santa Fe Community Services District for 17 years and was a past president of the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club. He admires how the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s Covenant “keeps a handle on all the new buildings and won’t allow anything that will change the atmosphere of the community.”
Back when nobody had drying machines, they had a clothes drying yard and he said there were strict Covenant rules about keeping drying yards screened and enclosed. “Time marches on,” Nelson says.
Nelson was married to Beverly for 54 years before she passed away in 2000. Nelson’s daughter also passed away in 2000 but his son, who lives in Arizona, often visits with his grandkids. Nelson lives in the house with his cocker spaniel he calls “Puppy,” enjoying the quiet Rancho Santa Fe surroundings and never missing a football game on TV.