Letter from the widow of Officer Gene Russ Nelson
I am writing this, as there is no one else left to write.
In 1983, at the tender age of nearly 19, I married my high-school sweetheart (he was 22). A week later, he took the oath of office as a police officer of the City of Del Rio, Texas. I helped him through the academy (he hated all the math!), and supported him while he was the only cop "walking a beat" in a small West Texas town. After spending four years in the US Army (82nd Airborne), Gene knew what active was, and continued to stay in shape, both physically and mentally.
I don't know exactly where our lives took a turn, but one day, his temper turned rather violent, and he threw me out of our house. After six weeks of separation, we had begun to reconcile the differences, and even talked about getting back together. On a Sunday night, his shift held their "shift party" (the one day every three months the entire shift had the day off together, caused by rotating shifts). He told me he would call me at work the next day.
I was jarred from a sound sleep at 5:03 am - cause unknown. I showered and went to work, nearly two hours early. Gene's two best friends came to find me at the office about 7:30 am to tell me that he was dead - he had killed himself drunk driving on my motorcycle, by collinding with a 16" telephone pole at about 5:00 am. It seems that the shift of six had consumed nearly 12 cases of beer in just over 8 hours - Gene's BAL was .19 - nearly twice the legal limit in Texas. After talking to others on his shift, they reported he had been despondent early in the evening about our personal problems, but that had seemingly disappeared as the night wore on. I was a widow at 23.
After reading some of the information on your site, I am convinced that he suffered from at least some PTSD. A member (and a close buddy of Gene's) of their department had been killed "in the line", and Gene had to work the accident. Numerous people he knew were killed in accidents while he was in the Army, as well as Panama and Grenada.
Thanks for hopefully saving someone else the heartache that I have carried. No one knows what it is like until you are standing before the entire police department in their dress blues, casket in hand, and you are the one left behind.
Wendy (Nelson) Crawford Tulsa OK
PS - I persevered. Gene left all of his insurance to his parents, so I quit my job and went back to college, eventually earning both a Bachelors & Masters in Business Administration in Marketing/Marketing Research. I now have remarried (six years this March) and I have a three year old son.