R. W. and Mary Nelson
The history behind R.W. (Bud) and Mary Nelson and Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines is a rich and storied one. The Nelsons have long been associated with the health care center in varying capacities, dating back to even generations before them. They are an extraordinary example of one family’s ability to share in the services of the facility and, in turn, share of themselves.
The couple met in Iowa, and they’ve lived in Des Moines since 1934. Over the years, they’ve seen countless changes to the city, and to Mercy Medical Center, and have played an important role in more than a few of them.
Bud and Mary founded the fledgling Chemical Industries in 1961 on their own, developing and marketing mold inhibitors, flavors, and other agricultural products in the Midwest. The now global, multimillion-dollar corporation, Kemin Industries, is a direct result of their many years of hard work, innovation, and family pride.
They saw that same set of values at work in Mercy Medical Center. It was a local facility determined to serve patients with the latest health care advances, as well as through spiritual growth and compassion.
“The Sisters had a strong presence in the hospital,” remembers Mary.
The Nelsons were also inextricably tied to Mercy through their own experiences. Mary’s grandfather, a physician, was Mercy’s first chief of staff. Mary was born at Mercy. (She still possesses the calligraphic certificate her parents received upon her birth.) Their children were all delivered at Mercy. To them, all of these special connections helped to convince them to give back.
When they were first contacted by Sister Pauline Hammes in the 1950s, they had no idea they would become lifelong contributors to the Mercy family. “It was a building drive. The Sisters were asking for assistance, probably back before the towers,” explains Mary. The Nelsons agreed to help fund the program, which led to the establishment of the West Building, at that time a new hospital. So it began.
This family that had enjoyed a special relationship with the hospital and its people, that had taken advantage of its premier health care services, was now doing their part to continue the tradition.
“It’s terribly important that we have a strong hospital,” states Bud. “It really needs to be a center of excellence. They have an incredible reputation in neonatal intensive care and heart surgery. It’s a privilege that we can benefit from such classy health care, right here in Des Moines.” And since 1980, the Nelsons have been doing their part by making regular contributions to Mercy Foundation.
Mary also spent 19 years on the Mercy Medical Center Board of Trustees. She recognizes the importance of investment in local health care. She helped manage many of the decisions about allocating money and what would benefit the users of Mercy Medical Center the most.
“There have been a lot of changes, including acquisitions of land around the hospital, upgrades to existing facilities, new equipment, not to mention constant remodeling. There’s so much out there that requires attention and funding,” says Mary.
Clearly, having one of the Midwest’s premier hospitals in their own backyard is not so much a privilege to Bud and Mary as it is a priority. They are helping provide the highest quality of care to thousands of families like theirs, thanks to their overwhelming generosity and many years of giving.
The Nelsons have shared their lives with Mercy, literally from generation to generation. They’ve made substantial contributions to Mercy Foundation, especially to Mercy College of Health Sciences and Mercy Hospice. More importantly, what began as entrepreneurs re-investing in their community continues as old friends reiterating their kindness.