Thursday, May 10

Remembering A Friend: Nelson Ellis, Jr.

There will be no posts this Friday. No comments. No famous last words.

The silence is for my friend and personal trainer, Nelson Jackson Ellis, Jr., 38, of Las Vegas. He died on Sunday. I found out two hours ago. His memorial will be held tomorrow. My intention is to get up early, complete some work, and attend.

You know, a lot of people talk and talk about what makes a great client or a great vendor on blogs and in articles and in books. This measurement and that measurement. That quality and this quality. One style and another style. Most is baloney.

The perfect client-vendor relationship transcends labels, terms, and measurements. There are no formulas, methods, or processes. All there is are people, each providing a beneficial presence for the other. That is what I found with Nelson Ellis.

It did not matter if I arrived late (because of a job overrun) or if he had to call off our session all together (because he was training for another job). We always made it up to each other somehow. I didn't press which exercises I liked or disliked as some of his clients did, because I recognized him as the expert. Likewise, he didn't press me if my I wasn't 100 percent, spotting me a little more than I wanted him to (and he didn't think I noticed. Ha!). But more than all that, we became friends.

When I first met Nelson (my first trainer had left for another gym) we set an objective: he was supposed to train me for six months, well enough, that I would not need him after that. But then, something happened. We enjoyed each other's company too much to let it go despite achieving the objective. Sometimes, there wasn't even a session. We worked out together. And there were plans to do some adventurous things this summer like repelling, sand surfing, or whatnot.

We listened to each other too. More than most people do nowadays. And because we did, he could tell if I had a "bad post" day or whatever and I could tell if he had a bad "date" or complaint about his other job. He would listen to a gripe, offer some thought, and then smile ... "hey, how's your baby." Gripe solved. Or, I would listen to his gripe, offer some thought, and ask "so what happened with that girl" ... or "how's your son" ... or any number of questions I knew to ask to move beyond it.

We talked about serious issues too. It was safe to do. And it didn't matter what it was: professional, personal, politics. (Nelson found it funny that I was a member of NAACP for a few years. He was an African-American, which I mention only so you appreciate why he thought it was so funny.) And here some people thought I just fire off ideas about racism. Nah, I often asked him what he thought first. In fact, some of what I've presented on this blog on that issue is his as much as mine.

Maybe he had a different view because he served in the U.S. Army. At least that's what he told me. There are no racial issues in a fox hole, he said. Maybe that's what it takes. Or maybe it just takes two guys who choose to refuse to accept what's presented to them as "fact." Much like client-vendor relationships, most of the stuff on race is baloney.

Nelson Ellis was my friend. He made a tremendous difference in my life. I think he knows it too. He will be missed, but not just by me. He is survived by his son, Devante; father, Nelson J. Sr.; and mother, Jacqueline D. Green. Dozens and dozens of signatures grace the poster that will be given to his family tomorrow.

Sorry this post is not what you came for today, but I'm a writer first and foremost. And that's the way it goes with us.

Until Monday. Good night and good luck.



MK on 5/10/07, 7:21 PM said...

Sorry to hear about your friend dying. You didn't say from what and he was apparently healthy and fairly young. Also curious is the fact that I had just become aware of him the other day in your posting about Rush L. The way you described it however in your story/commemoration I didn't get the feeling of something gone tragically wrong. Just a life well lived.

Rich on 5/10/07, 7:42 PM said...

Thanks Animal. He was in a motorcycle accident.

I think I mentioned him to you in an e-mail related to the Rush post. I didn't know at the time.

I was supposed to meet him this past Monday and was going to tell him about the Rush post. He did not come in, but I didn't give it much thought because he didn't make the Monday before (training for a new job). We had talked in-between.

Yes, a life well-lived. That's what I want to share. I might have written something else for someone else, but he would have liked this better.

Geoff_Livingston on 5/10/07, 7:46 PM said...

I am sorry for your loss, Rich.

Rich on 5/12/07, 8:26 AM said...

Thank you Geoff. You're a good person.

The service was a celebration of life. I'm honored to have been there.

Chaffee Street Cafe` on 5/14/07, 9:53 AM said...

What a sincere and honorable friend he had in you. I am so sorry for your loss. Real friends are hard to find. In the days ahead may your heart not be too heavy. Sincerely, Theresa111

Rich on 5/14/07, 11:20 AM said...

Thank you Theresa111. It is easy to be these things with someone like Nelson because those are the standards he set. Anyone who knew him might offer up that remembering his smile, antics, and love of life will always be the cure for heavy heart. :)

Ang on 5/16/07, 2:24 PM said...

I am happy to read your thoughts about Nelson. He was the most amazing man I've ever met. Not sure if he ever mentioned me, but I was his ex fiance and recent girlfriend. I know the pain you feel, but I hope you will always cherish the great times you had with him. I love hearing about how he touched others.....thanks!!

Rich on 5/16/07, 3:42 PM said...

I am thrilled and deeply touched that you took the time to comment. Yes, he did mention you (more than once, and more than a mention).

He was amazing person and I will always cherish what he shared with me, which is why I posted. It will always be here; and always open.

I tend to skirt some personal stories a little bit; So Ang, if you want to know one of the best of them ... drop me an e-mail (just drop in the @ to replace (at).

All my best, Rich

Corey on 5/17/07, 3:57 PM said...

Rich, I am a friend of Nelson's and have been since we were 10 years old. I happened across this article after hearing 2 days ago about his passing. Nelson and I went to school together and were roomates after high school. He was one of my best friends growing up. He is more than a friend to me, he is my brother.

Rich on 5/17/07, 5:56 PM said...

Hi Corey,

I'm glad you found the post and contributed. Another friend of his (for about the same length of time) spoke at the service. It was rather remarkable (as were all the stories shared). I am sorry you found out late.

I've met few people who have measured up. He helped me out in a way that no one else could have during the time I knew him. I can only hope I have done justice.

My invitation to connect with an e-mail is open to anyone who knew Nelson. Or simply know you're comments are appreciated by me as well as many people who have found this post.

All my best, Rich

Fred on 7/13/07, 10:41 AM said...

I knew Nelson & trained with him when he was working in the San Antonio Club, Any person who did not like Nelson probably has a problem with themselves. He was a good friend & I will miss him.

Anonymous said...

i knew nelson he was like a brother to me and i miss him i was very shocked to hear bout his death and i would like a copy of his obituary if you caqn help me please let me know nelson is greatly missed in my eyes i remember his smile and the crazy things he would do or when he would be mad at me if i did not try during our work outs...

Rich on 9/16/07, 11:28 AM said...

Hi Mona,

I think of Nelson quit a bit; I kept his obit. Please e-mail me at the address above and we find the best way to get you one.

All my best,

Unknown on 9/18/07, 6:18 PM said...

Hello Rich,
I am really glad that this post is here to memorialize Nelson or Ellis as I called him. Ellis and I served in the US Army together 902nd Engineer Co. I considered him my brother. He was an honorable, and loyal friend. I am shocked at hearing the news regarding his death. Nelson will be greatly missed. I agree with Fred in the earlier post, If you had a problem with Ellis you had a problem with yourself(really).


Rich on 9/19/07, 8:40 AM said...

Hey Ro,

You are Fred are both right. Nelson was full of life.

I also miswrote when I wrote obit. I meant that I kept his memorial service obit (not a newspaper obit). It is appropriately titled "A Celebration of Life."


Anonymous said...

I trained with Nelson when he worked in San Antonio. He was a great person, trainer , father and friend. He had such a great smile and outlook on life. I thought about him often and still do. We went out a couple of times and I really enjoyed his friendship. I think I might know Mona and would like to get in touch with her as well.

Anonymous said...

Risc I wanted to thank you for these kind words that you wrote in memory of Nelson. I also wanted to thank the others that have posted on here as well. Nelson and I became friends in the 7th grade. From that time until the end of high school we were the best of friends. Nelson and I practically lived at each others homuses during those years and we were always there for one another. After high school we went our seperate ways and lost toch with one another. Once our ten year class reunioun came we met up once again and it was just like we never parted ways. Nelson was the same old Nelson and anyone that knew him knows what I mean when I say that. After reunion we parted once more and once again lost touch. Then in the summer of 2006 at our 20 year reunion we met up for one last time. We talked about the memories of our past together as well as our families. This time we promised to not lose touch. When I heard the news of Nelson's passing two days after the accident I was deeply saddened as was everyone who knew and loved him. Nelson will always be there in memory and spirit with me and when I think of Nelson I can't help but to let out a little chuckle about something funny that he did when we were kids. Nelson was a great friend, an honorable man, and a loving father.

I will see you again some day old friend. God Bless.

Rich on 9/29/07, 11:26 AM said...


That is a remarkably powerful comment. I don't even know what to say, except to thank you for sharing these thoughts. I am deeply touched.


Jackie Green on 10/22/07, 10:30 PM said...

Thank you all for your comments about my son, Nelson. Nelson was a ramarkable son. From the day he was born he gave all our family so much joy. He never came into a room without leaving you with a smile from some crazy thing he said or did. He called me every week with an update on his life or as he would say "Just to check in." I really miss those calls. He was always giving me advice on my diet and I was always telling him why it wasn't working - one Christmas when we were in Old Sacramento going through the shops he bought me a Boyds Bear riding a Treadmill eating a candy bar and it says, "Never Mind...I like me just as I am" - Every time I get on the treadmill I think about him and smile! I was very Blessed that the day before he died he called. I started not to call him back as it was late when I got home and I was tired but I am so glad I did - had no ideal that was our last phone visit and they were his last words to me "I love you Mom." I hated that motorcycle and it was awhile before I found out he was riding again but after Nelson died I realized we all have a time to live and a time to die. What is important is how we live and he lived life to the fullest. He left alot of good memories for all of us and that is what is important. God called him home and the chain was broken but someday as one by one we are called home the chain will link again. Thank you all again.

Rich on 10/23/07, 12:22 PM said...


I am touched and honored. Your words here are as beautiful and inspiring as they were at the service.

I am not surprised to read that you thought him to be a remarkable son. He thought you were a remarkable Mom. Though we never met one-on-one, I am inclined to agree. Thank you for raising a son so wonderful to be able to touch so many lives so deeply.

With affection,

4leesa91 on 2/26/08, 10:22 AM said...

Thank you for creating this blog. I knew Nelson well. He was my life before he entered the military. I loved him and his family. I am just busted about this early ending to a life many were blessed to know. Again, thank you all for the comments, it validated the love we once shared. He was a great guy and could always make me smile. I think today is the first time he made me really cry.

Amy's Family on 4/10/08, 11:24 PM said...


I had shared a few emails with you soon after Nelson passed away and I just wanted to say that what you have done here for him is wonderful. As it gets closser to the time of his passing I feel so much closer to the heavens, I know it sounds crazy and I laugh each time it happens and I have had others with me when it has happened but I frequently ask Nelson for help with green lights (no surprise here in Vegas)and I swear it always works and I always thank him.

During the times of our training we became closer and closer friends, he has helped me through so much and I wish he was here now to share with me the joys of life. I have so many things to thank him for. I was at the accident site at Christmas to place a wreath there and I plan on visiting him again there on the anniversary of his death. It was such a peaceful place to pass....I feel a calmness over me each time I am there.

Rich on 4/17/08, 9:07 AM said...

@Leesa. Thank you for lending to it. It means a lot.

@Amy. I really appreciate it. Yes, I think about him often as well, certainly every time I go to the gym. And frequently when people email me or call after reading this post for the first time. I hope with all my heart that it provides a legacy of sorts for his son.


Anonymous said...

From TX ~ For some reason Nelson Ellis has been on my mind all month. It started with a handwritten meal plan that I found recently that Nelson gave me over 5years ago when I lived in San Antonio. I'm shocked to read that he died! I know this has to be Nelson's special way of getting contact with me. To his family please know that he loved you all very much. He often talked about his family when he was training me. He will be greatly missed by me and my husband!

Anonymous said...

Hurricane Ike interfered with my travel plans to San Antonio this week. Today I decided to call friends I had hoped to surprise during my visit. This is how I learned of Nelson's friends (and Nelson's) were so apologetic that they had not been able to contact me to tell me of our incredible loss. My heart hurts and cries for the loss of Nelson, such a beautiful person. I recall sometimes dragging myself to the fitness center, still exhausted from a brutal Army day. I did it because I knew Nelson would be there....waiting to help me at 5 a.m.. I did it because I loved our talks.....we formed an unspoken bond of trust and talked about anything and everything. Nelson called me "adopted sister" (such an honor, but gosh darn!!) Nelson spoke often of his son, a sister and his Mom and Dad; he so loved you all! I felt pangs of desertion when Nelson decided to leave San Antonio for Las Vegas, knowing he would not be there when I returned to San Antonio. Yet I was impressed with his decision because Nelson so wanted to be with his Dad. I remember Nelson as a sweet spirit; tough on the work outs; incredibly funny; respectfully honest and candid; an eternal optimist with a big heart who sometimes was too naive for his own good (enter "sister"); the real deal; and yes, oh so very easy on the eyes. As always, I will continue to think of Nelson, a sweet prince, and pray that his family find some comfort in knowing that those who knew Nelson loved him. Farewell Nelson, and until we meet again, thanks for the memories! And Rich, I thank you for your tribute and my outlet.

Anonymous said...

Farewell Nelson, my friend, you are greatly missed. See you in heaven

jazzminruiz on 5/5/12, 5:40 PM said...

Hello, My name is Jazzmin. I knew Nelson a while back in San Antonio. I was so sad to hear about his passing...When exactly did he die?

Rich on 5/9/12, 6:15 AM said...

Almost five years ago Jazzman.

JDHall on 7/2/12, 12:01 PM said...

Nelson was a friend and trainer to me and my wIfe while he lived in SA. The above comments are true. He was remarkably approachable and was noticed when he entered any room.

It's hard to believe its been I've years.

Nelson, we still think of you - fondly.


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