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Kristen Daum, Published August 29 2009

Group wants to honor fallen Moorhead soldier with track

Two years after his death, Staff Sgt. Andrew P. Nelson could be honored with a Moorhead running track built in his name.

His mother, Suzanne Nelson, and family friends are working to raise $30,000 by Sept. 15 to construct a 600-foot-long asphalt track at Townsite Park, 311 10th St. S.

Nelson was killed in Iraq two years ago today at age 22. He grew up in Moorhead and was active in track and cross country during his school years. Townsite Park is adjacent to St. Joseph’s Catholic School, which Nelson attended.

“Andrew was a big community supporter and anything he did, he did 100 percent,” said Julie Goehring, a family friend who’s son knew Nelson since kindergarten. “He always liked track, so we figured anything with a park would honor him.”

In 2008, attempts to rename Townsite Park in honor of Nelson failed. But arrangements are in place to build the track there as long as the money comes through, said Karen Nitzkorski, family friend and West Fargo School Board member.

About $4,000 has been raised so far, and organizers are confident they’ll raise the funds in time, Nitzkorski said.

“We thought this was a really nice match to make Townsite Park really user-friendly for the community and the St. Joseph’s school,” Nitzkorski said. “It’s so exciting that we’re doing this in memory of Andrew, but it’s not just for him. It’s for any man or woman who has fought in any war.”

Fundraising events are planned for Sept. 10-12 in conjunction with the all-city high school cross country meet and Greater Moorhead Days. Details are being finalized, but Nitzkorski said the “Friends of Andrew Nelson” plan to be at events that weekend.

Valerie Ritland, former principal at St. Joseph’s and first-cousin to Andrew’s mother, said she hopes the community will help honor one of its own.

“Andrew’s worthy of this honor, and (the track) is a gift to this community where he grew up,” Ritland said.

“I hope the community will respond through the different ways that we’ve offered them to be involved.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541