Now I’m the “only” Nelson Page Aspen. My father, for whom I am named, is gone after 93 years and for 55 and a half of those, I never knew a world where I wasn’t “JR” aka “Junior.”
Nelson Senior wore many hats. Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather. Student, soldier, surgeon, numismatist. He saved lives and enhanced lives. He was larger than life. Demanding and strict some times, beyond generous and affectionate at others. He not only looked like Ernest Hemingway (Mariel agreed), he similarly seized life in great handfuls. He may have only stood 5’10, but he always cut a powerful, towering figure with his immaculately trimmed white beard, barrel chest and booming voice.
Everyone in town knew my Dad. Since moving to West Chester sixty years ago with his mother and two daughters, he became a local fixture in all aspects of the community. When he married my beautiful mother and brought her two sons into the family, it was like a Netflix version of The Brady Bunch…and then I arrived (my father actually delivered me because the Obstetrician had gone on a dinner break!) and was christened with his name. Heavy is the head that wears the crown of the “Prince of Pennsylvania!”
My father was an animal lover. He told me he had considered becoming a Veterinarian, but his patients wouldn’t have been able to communicate with him. Being an Orthopedic Surgeon suited his macho personality and well into his 90s, people would approach him in the supermarket or hardware store and thank him for saving their lives…fixing their backs…mending their broken bones. Even without his distinguished naval service, he would have been a hero. Back to the animals: after we moved off the farm and said goodbye to the horses (and goats, chickens, donkeys and ducks), there was an endless parade of dogs with whom my dad shared a special bond. The mastiffs, Kleine & Shasta, got daily rides to the drive-thru window at McDonald’s for hamburgers. Logan the Labrador was treated to steak every Friday night. Dad is survived not only by his loving family but his beloved pit bull rescue Craig who landed in the proverbial pot of jam the lucky day my folks decided to stop by the SPCA. The canine list goes on and on….
A self-made man who put himself through medical school and supported his family by driving a horse-drawn cart to deliver milk in the pre-dawn hours, he not only became a successful doctor but the author of two books, founder of the esteemed Chester County Currency Club and served on President Gerald Ford’s Assay Commission. Dad was instrumental in the reissue of $2 bills into our currency. His passion for Bermudian Coins and Currency resulted in his serving on their Board of Governors and earned him a place of honor in their historical museum.
A man of his generation, he was smart and sensitive enough to evolve and change with the times. He was great company right up until the end and had a wide circle of friends of all ages and backgrounds. “Doc Aspen” was well known, well respected and well loved.
We almost lost dad in 2015 but a drug called “Entresto” blessed him (and us) with an additional three years of good health and vigor. When its benefits finally faded, so did he…but relatively quickly and, thanks to the loving care of my mother, brother Reese & his wife Mary, in the home he had loved for decades. We got to spend lots of quality time together, as we always had, and nothing was left unsaid or unresolved.
Nelson Page Aspen, Sr. passed away quietly at home, in his favorite chair overlooking his beautiful back yard filled with the beloved birds, squirrels and fish he tended to over the decades. I will strive to continue living up to his name. I love you, Dad, as I have from Day One as I will until my own Last Day.