After 72 years of marriage, Elvira M. (Ringgard) Nelson and Carl R. Nelson died exactly one week apart, Elvira on May 22 and Carl on May 29, 2022. They were surrounded by family at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester. Elvira was 91 and Carl, 92.
Elvira, known as Vi, was born on June 19, 1930, and Carl on July 28, 1929, in Worcester. They grew up in East Brookfield and married when Carl was 20 and Vi still a teenager.
In 1963, they opened their first restaurant, Ye Olde Tavern, in West Brookfield. When an opportunity to buy Rookies Restaurant in South Wellfleet arose in 1971, they took it. Their son Bob said that they had imagined retiring on the Cape but ended up working here and relishing it.
The O’Rourke family, from whom they bought the restaurant, had established a reputation for good pizza. Vi and Carl carried on that tradition for 41 years.
Pam Tice’s South Wellfleet history blog includes a 2014 entry that notes how “a pizza from Rookies was a special treat from time to time in an era when all meals were prepared in our kitchen, not ordered in.” The post goes on: “Rookies’ pizza and its 1950s décor stayed exactly the same for fifty years. … This inherent quality to remain constant and unchanged is such an important part of Cape vacations in South Wellfleet.”
In 1981 Carl and Vi bought Bob’s Sub and Cone, which they ran with their son until their retirement. They sold Rookies in 2013. Bob continues to operate his namesake restaurant.
Vi and Carl wintered in their Vero Beach, Fla. house and traveled the world by air and by sea. They enjoyed cruises and went to Hawaii several times.
Vi loved to knit and crochet. She had a passion for flowers, and she would spend hours tending her garden. She was happiest on holidays when all the family got together. She loved to look at the summer sky and find the Big Dipper.
When Carl was young, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and a bit of gambling. He visited different casinos and enjoyed playing scratch tickets.
The couple leave a daughter, Dianne Harper, and two sons, Richard and his significant other, Shirley Goyette, of Spencer; and Robert and wife Cathleen of East Brookfield. They are missed by their nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. They were predeceased by a son-in-law, Robert, and a daughter-in-law, Marie.
A memorial Mass will be held at a date to be announced. Burial will be in Evergreen Cemetery in East Brookfield.