William Nelson
Plant a Tree
Plant a Tree

Graveside Service

11:00 am
Monday, August 12, 2019
Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery
Legion Road
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

Obituary of William Cary Nelson

William Cary Nelson, of Chapel Hill, NC, died suddenly on August 7, 2019 at the age of 80 years old, of a surprise cardiac incident from which he could not be revived. He will be remembered for his kind and generous heart, warm smile and sharp mind, able to recall detailed sports statistics and political history like few could. Most of all, he was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather who enjoyed spending family time together, especially at sporting events and on annual summer adventures in Hilton Head Island, SC for over 40 years. 

Bill, as he is known, was born in June, 1939 in Washington DC to the late Cary and Louise Nelson of Chevy Chase, MD. He graduated from Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, NC in 1961 with a degree in mathematics. At Wake Forest, he met the former Susan Isabel Powers, in 1960. They were married in August, 1963 and were looking forward to celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary with family in the coming weeks. 

After obtaining a doctorate in statistics at Virginia Tech in 1967, Bill joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Cincinnati, OH as a statistician and researcher in public health. In early fall, 1968, he and Susan moved to Chapel Hill, NC, where he continued his work with the EPA at Research Triangle Park for over 30 years. During this time, he also held an adjunct faculty position with the UNC School of Public Health. His intellect and thoughtful demeanor made him a trusted and respected colleague by all with whom he worked. 

Bill is survived by wife Susan and their two daughters, Lara Nelson Hanson (James Stillman) of Durham, NC and Diana Leigh Zapolski (Todd) of Napa, CA; grandchildren James Stillman Hanson, Jr., Luke Cary Hanson, and Faith Margaret Hanson, all of Durham, NC, and Dylan Leigh Zapolski of Napa, CA; step-granddaughters Alixandra Zapolski Guthrie (Jon) of Raleigh, NC and Christina Isabelle Sundberg (Matthew) of Huntington Beach, CA; and sister-in-law Ellen Powers Grundt (Don). He is preceded in death by his son, Brian Hughes Nelson.

A private graveside service was held Monday, August 12, at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Bill’s memory to the Environmental Defense Fund at www.edf.org.

Walker’s Funeral Home in Chapel Hill has been entrusted to care for the Nelson family.

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