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Front Page » July 21, 2009 » Obituaries » Philip Alan Nelson
Published 2,078 days ago

Philip Alan Nelson

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GREEN RIVER - Philip Alan Nelson, age 57, died suddenly Saturday, July 11, 2009, at his home in Green River.

Philip was born July 10, 1952 in San Angelo, Texas, to Helen Louise Phillips.

Phil's childhood was spent in many places, including Washington, Delaware and El Paso, Texas, as his stepdad, Russell Nelson, was in the U.S. Air Force. He had special memories of the three years he spent in Scotland.

In the early 1970s, he moved out west to Grand Canyon, Ariz.

He was known as Phantom Phil for awhile, hiking the canyon in the summers and living in California in the winter.

In 1982, Phil moved to Moab to become a boatman. Then he moved to Parks, Ariz., 1983 -1991, where he continued his pursuit of exploring river canyons all over the southwest.

In 1991, he moved to Glenwood, N.M., and had a stint as a forest ranger, but then decided government work was not for him.

In 1997, he moved to Green River to be closer to the rivers he loved.

His companion of 25 years, Katherine Brown, paddled her own boat right along with Phil on many trips. Phil and Katherine had bought a house in Green River and were planning to finally have a home base. This past winter, Phil had home published a book of autobiographical stories called Desert River Stories.

Phil recently boated the Escalante River for 18 days with a good friend, Gregg Baumgarten.

In between river trips, Phil made a living as a painter, carpenter and all-around handyman in Green River.

He also spent many hours building unique frames for his inflatable kayak - always perfecting his equipment for his next expedition.

Even though he did many trips alone, Phil wanted to share his love of rivers and inspire others to slow down and enjoy life.

As one of his favorite songs states, "Drink life one drop at a time ..." (Michael Murphey).

Phil is survived by his wife, Katherine Brown; mother, Helen Nelson; stepfather, Russell Nelson; sisters, Sally Nelson and Sue Savino; and brother, Russ Nelson. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Sam and Louise Phillips.

There will be a memorial service Saturday, July 25, at 11 a.m. at the John Wesley Powell River Museum in Green River.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made through Key Bank in Green River to help with expenses.

You may send condolences to the family at

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July 21, 2009
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