Remembering Carl Nelson

Oct 21, 2019

Northern Public Radio is mourning the loss of our friend and colleague, Carl Nelson. He died unexpectedly last week at the age of 35.

Carl’s fingerprints are all over WNIJ, on-air and behind the scenes. He was a frequent and familiar voice for listeners, especially as host of his weekly program showcasing the local music scene, Sessions from Studio A. He was also Chief Operator, taking care of the technical side of the stations, from the transmitters to the broadcast studios. Carl was a true maker: He used his technical and creative skills to help his coworkers do their jobs better, faster, and more simply. We were also lucky to be on the receiving end of many of his culinary projects, from smoked brisket to a superior cup of coffee.

General Manager Staci Hoste said his contributions were immeasurable.

“Carl’s talent was rivaled only by his determination. From dreaming up Studio A and launching a local music showcase to overseeing technical operations and driving across the country with a mobile studio in tow, Carl gave his all to making WNIJ a better station to listen to, to support, and to work at. We’re grieving the loss of our colleague, our friend, and the source of endless inspiration and humor.”

A DeKalb native who stayed connected and committed to his hometown, Carl started working at WNIJ part-time fifteen years ago. Over time, he took on more roles and responsibilities with Northern Public Radio. We watched him grow from a know-it-all kid to the co-worker who really did know it all.

Carl’s interests and talents were always surprising: from his love of nature to needlepoint to photography to long-distance bicycling. It was just last year that he and WNIJ contributor Dan Libman became the first to bike the entire length of the Rock River, chronicling their five-day adventure for our listeners on-air and on-line.

Musicians are remembering him as a talented musician himself, as well as a dear friend, skilled audio engineer, and advocate for local bands. A hot-shot drummer in high school, he mastered more musical instruments over the years, writing and recording his own music.

Above all else, our hearts go out to Carl’s family, especially the two young boys he leaves behind. We saw the joy they gave him and the pride and awe he felt as he watched them grow.

There were not enough hours in the day to hold all of Carl’s ideas and passions.  And our time with him was far too short. But we will move forward the best we can, honoring his commitment to our listeners and our community.

Help us honor the life of Carl Nelson with a special Sessions from Studio A tribute tonight at 7:00 on WNIJ. We'll hear some of his favorite interviews and performances from the local music he brought you over the years. You can hear an encore broadcast this Saturday at noon and online.

Visitation will be held at Anderson Funeral Home in DeKalb Friday, Oct. 25 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. A funeral service will be held Saturday, Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church in DeKalb.  

The Carl Douglas Nelson Memorial Fund has been established for the benefit of his boys in care of Anderson Funeral Home.