The Nelsons: Sailing Tall Ships and Supporting Scholarships

To satisfy a love of learning. To fulfill a dream. To make new friends. To conquer old fears. While our participants love Elderhostel for similar reasons, the thousands of stories behind those reasons are anything but common. For Earl and Carol Nelson, who have participated in more than 30 Elderhostel programs, a favorite story behind their love of Elderhostel takes place on a tall ship off the coast of Washington.

“It was the summer of 2006,” Carol recalls. “I took our granddaughter on an Intergenerational program on Puget Sound, sailing on a 100-foot schooner.

“When the program started it took a little while for the group to warm up to one another. Then there was an activity where the kids could climb to the top of a tall mast. One girl was bound and determined to do it, but was stuck halfway, scared out of her wits. Everyone kept cheering her on, though, and she finally made it. And she brought the whole group together along the way.”

Earl agrees. “Pulling together and doing things we might never do on our own — that’s what’s special about Elderhostel,” he says.

After raising their son and daughter in Corvallis, Ore. and retiring, Earl and Carol Nelson left the rainy climate and relocated to the east side of the Cascade Mountains, to the high desert in Redmond. Earl grew up in Wisconsin and moved to Oregon to pursue a degree in forestry management. He worked 38 years with the U.S. Forest Service, based at Oregon State University, researching controls for diseases that reduce productivity of the area’s greatest natural resource.

Carol descends from family that pioneered the Oregon Territory back in the 1840s. She spent 42 years as a pharmacist and continues to help others as a long-term care ombudsman and a volunteer at a local food bank.

The Nelsons have three grandchildren and believe a love of learning is best shared between generations. “Growing up, education was the most important thing in my family,” Carol says, “and we want to inspire our grandkids to think the same way, which is why we love taking them on Elderhostel programs.”

From the boiling mud pots of Yellowstone Park to the Anasazi cave dwellings around Flagstaff to kayaking in the wake of Lewis and Clark along the Columbia River, the Nelsons and their grandkids strengthen their bond and foster a curiosity of the world on Intergenerational programs.

“That you don’t need television, you don’t need a shower every night, that you can survive on vegetarian meals — there are valuable life lessons the kids learn on these programs,” Earl says.

The powerful effect that Elderhostel has on the lives of young and old alike inspired the Nelsons, who support Elderhostel through the Annual Fund, to include in their wills a $50,000 bequest to Elderhostel, which will create the Earl & Carol Nelson Memorial Scholarship.

Earl says, “We were revising our estate plans and made a list of charities that are important to us. We were inspired when we read about others who had made bequests to Elderhostel, so we decided to do the same. It’s a great organization.”

Adds Carol, “Elderhostel offers opportunities to people of a certain age that can make an impact on their lives, but only if they can afford the programs. We thought we could help in that regard.”

To learn more about charitable bequests or how you can establish a Named Scholarship Fund, please contact Ann Lamond, Senior Leadership and Planned Giving Officer, at or toll free at (877) 737-0664.