Earl Findley Nelson, 90, Apopka, passed away Saturday April 25. He is survived by his wife Floride “Flo”, children Bryan (Debbie), Scott, and beloved former daughter-in-law Sandi, grandchildren Reed (Lacey) Nelson, Linda (Doug) Knudsen, Sarah Nelson, Amanda (Chris) Osborne as well as great-grandkids Calleigh, Reed, Madden, Hannah and many nieces and nephews.
Earl was born in Birmingham, Alabama on June 13, 1929 to Olin Findley and Mabel Nelson. The Nelson family settled in Orlando in 1938. While still in high school, Earl built a greenhouse in the backyard along with a slat shed. He started growing orchids and as the business flourished, his mother Mabel became his partner and together they sold orchids to neighbors and the Orchid Society.
Earl graduated from Orlando High School in 1947. He went to the University of Florida for two years and was a member of the SAE fraternity. Earl was drafted to the Army during the Korean War and was stationed in Germany.
When Earl returned home, he began working at USDA in Orlando. His favorite part of his job was taste testing mangoes which remained his favorite fruit. With encouragement from his supervisor at USDA, Earl returned to UF majoring in horticulture with an emphasis on citrus.
While at UF, Earl began courting his former junior high and high school classmate Flo Johnson. Within the span of 10 days in February of 1957 he graduated from UF, married Flo, honeymooned and started a job as Assistant Agriculture County Agent in Manatee County.
In 1958, Earl and Flo moved to Apopka for Earl to join his brother B.P. and their father as the grower at the 34-acre nursery O.F. Nelson & Son’s Nursery growing pertussum and philodendrons. Earl and Flo arrived in Apopka just in time for Bryan’s birth then Scott completed their family two years later born on the tail end of Hurricane Donna. The nursery decided they needed to diversify and Earl’s love for flowers led him to purchase rose root stock and begin propagating. The end result of his work: the Nelson’s Florida Rose.
After retirement, Earl used his growing and business background to aid businesses in developing nations. He and Flo traveled to Ghana, Egypt, Macedonia and Ukraine with the International Executive Service Corps and had many adventures along the way.
Earl was dedicated to Rotary and had 62 years perfect attendance – including meetings attended from the countries he traveled to over the years. He was also a faithful member of the First Presbyterian Church of Apopka and served in many capacities through the years.
Earl (known as Honest Earl or Uncle Earl to many) was known for his witty sense of humor, his kind heart and his warm hugs.