Sam Nelson is a man of many talents, and at age 99, his creative spirit remains strong. Once owner of the Nelson Rack Company, in Providence, a manufacturer for the jewelry plating industry, Nelson now resides at The Phyllis Siperstein Tamarisk Assisted Living Residence, in Warwick.
Nelson recently gifted one of his most cherished creations to Temple Sinai, in Cranston – a wood carving in relief that he made several years ago, depicting a 19th-century Jewish wedding held under a huppah.
Asked how he went about creating the artwork, Nelson said, “I saw a beautiful picture and carved it entirely by hand into a single block of wood.”
Over the years, Nelson has whittled many other pieces, including a bust of Ludwig van Beethoven.
As a businessman, Nelson was often called on to invent products for his customers.
“In my line of work, I had to be creative and I always used my hands,” he said.
Nelson’s resourcefulness in business eventually led him to a variety of hobbies in retirement: making jewelry, shaping vases from fused glass, crafting stained glass panels and clocks, twisting copper wire into figures, and wood carving. He worked alongside his late wife, Gertrude Stein Nelson, who had a flair for painting.
Nelson’s artwork is displayed at the Banyan Springs Club, in Boynton Beach, Florida, at Tamarisk, and now at Temple Sinai.
He presented his wood carving to Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser on Aug. 31. It will be displayed on the first floor of Temple Sinai.
“We are grateful to accept this very special work of art because it was made by a member of our congregation,” Rabbi Goldwasser said. “It is something we are going to take a lot of pleasure in for a long time, and I am so happy that when people walk into the building, it will be one of the first things they see.”
Nelson’s detailed carving of the wedding was prominently displayed in his home for years, but he wanted it to be some place “where lots of people could see it.”
“I got a lot of pleasure from making many things over the years, but what I loved most was giving them away to my family and friends to enjoy,” he said.