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North Dakota Native
Left Inspiring Legacy



"Cliff Nelson"
"Our Friend, Our Teacher, Our Hero."
"Dedicated by Your Students at Seeley Lake Elementary"

Plaque Inscription


June 22, 2000
Reprinted in the Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

From the daily "Fargo Forum"
Fargo, North Dakota
by Bob Lind


Near Missoula, Mont., in a community named Seeley Lake, a school is named for a native of Forman, N.D.

It's the Cliff Nelson Junior High School.

Cliff taught there for 20 years, after graduating from Forman High School and Concordia College.

He was a quiet, unassuming kind of guy. His family back home (he was the second youngest of eight kids) had a hard time finding out he won many awards and honors, including being named both Montana History Teacher of the Year and Montana Teacher of the Year.

His sister Elaine Anderson, Forman, who is deputy auditor of Sargent County, speaks with pride about her brother.

She tells of his many talents, not the least of which was writing; he'd write poetry, stories, virtually anything.

"Every Christmas he'd write a play," Elaine says, "and send it to his family and acquaintances. It would be about someone or something he remembered back in Foreman." He had a phenomenal memory; he'd remember some little thing and make a play out of it, she says.

Cliff never married. He lived in a mobile home in Seeley Lake. It was there, in 1996, when he was 49, he was shot and killed.

Two young men were arrested and charged with his murder. But they were acquitted at their trial. The case is listed as unsolved.

The love his students and other people in Seeley Lake had for Cliff was evident when 1,200 came to his memorial service. In Forman, where he is buried, 300 attended his funeral.

The school was named for him and dedicated to him in 1998. Christmas stories he had written were sold at the dedication, with the proceeds paying for a plaque bearing one of his compositions.

Later, Montana's governor presented Cliff's family with the Governor's Citation of Merit.

Kathleen Davis, an elementary school teacher in Seeley Lake, says Cliff "was a tremendous presence in our state."

Cliff's mother, Dorthea Nelson, is a resident of the Good Samaritan Center, Oakes, N.D. Sometime this spring, she and other members of Cliff's family will receive a plaque.

It will be sent by the Cliff Nelson Junior High School in Seeley Lake.

It will be a tribute to this beloved teacher.

It will be placed on his grave.

"We thank those in Seeley Lake for the plaque sent recently and which was placed on Cliff's grave. He's missed by his mom and family."

Cliff Nelson's family

The above Thank You ad from Cliff Nelson's family appeared alongside the above article in the Pathfinder issue.


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