ASH FLAT, AR (KAIT) - Many people think of slowing down at age 92, but not Nelson Gatewood, the February winner of Gr8 Acts of Kindness, sponsored by First Community Bank and KAIT.
Brenda Shields nominated Gatewood for the award. She, along with Phyllis Gatewood, Nelson's wife, helped us coordinate this effort with several of his friends from the community.
When he got his prize money, his response was simple.
"That's great," Gatewood said. "Now I can go buy myself another ice cream cone. That's the best news I've had all day."
Gatewood moved to Cherokee Village in the '80s from Dayton, Ohio and has been a very active volunteer all over town. "I worked several years at the tourist information center for the Chamber of Commerce," Gatewood said.
Shields said there couldn't be a better ambassador.
"I came up to Walmart and he was still doing the poppy days," said Shields. "I'm thinking, wow! You are still in your '90s and you're still active. How great is that?"
"I turned 92 on December 28," Gatewood said. Only recently did placement of stints in his legs slow him down. This commander of the Disabled American Veterans and chaplain for the American Legion Post is most proud of the Ash Flat Veteran's Memorial.
"We are just so happy with it. We think it's one of the best in the country," Gatewood said. "The bricks are $50 each and open to any veterans, no matter when they were in. I have bricks for my relatives clear back to the Revolutionary War."
He worked to raise the money and was instrumental in getting an Army M47 tank and a 105 Howitzer cannon brought to Ash Flat.
Gatewood is the recipient of a Purple Heart after having been shot in WWII. He served in active combat, parachuting onto one of the Philippine Islands in 1945. He is currently quartermaster for VFW 477.
Gatewood's service to his country is just part of his identity. There's a less serious side as "Nellie the Clown."
He traveled to area schools and senior centers doing programs as part of a "clown club." He's given time to the United Way, Garden Club and was National President of the 503rd Combat Unit. Gatewood also helped start the very first National Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chapter in 1959. He lost his daughter to the disease.
"I haven't had a surprise like this in a long time," Gatewood said. Not only did he get the cash from First Community Bank, another benefactor has stepped forward to give $200 dollars to a veteran's organization of his choice.
"They need help. They're like me," Gatewood said. "Disabled veterans. I hope people won't forget what had to be done and what we had to do."
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