WILLMAR – Cardinal Pride has announced the 2019 Hall of Fame Inductees for the Sept. 20 induction.

They are community member Walt Gislason, George "Pinky" Nelson, Class of 1968, and Brad Welker, Class of '71.

There will be a tent reception and light meal beginning at 3:30 p.m. at Kennedy Elementary parking lot. Meal tickets are $5, payable at the door. RSVP to Jen Doering at 320-262-2128 or jldoering@gmail.com.

They will be introduced at halftime of the Cardinals’ Homecoming game against Alexandria.

Here are profiles of the inductees:

Walt Gislason

Walt Gislason
Walt Gislason

Top 5 Highlights

  • Student Athlete, Captain, Teacher, Coach, Veteran, Volunteer, Booster, and Fan

  • Founder of Walt’s Car Wash - employer and supporter of hundreds of Willmar Cardinal athletes

  • Instrumental in development of Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium

  • Proud military veteran - U.S. Army 1956-58 and member of The American Legion

  • Community leader and philanthropist — Rotary, Masonic Lodge and Shriners, The Barn Theater, volunteer Willmar firefighter


Walter Gislason is known in Willmar as “Walt” — founder of Walt’s Car Wash, oil change and convenience store located at the intersection of 1st St. and Willmar Ave.

Walt and his wife, Raeanna, made Willmar their home for over 40 years, raising two Cardinal graduates and employing many more. Walt’s Car Wash has hosted many fundraisers over the years for Cardinal teams and continues to do so today.

Born and raised in Minneota, Walt graduated from Minneota High School Class of 1954. At 6-foot-4, he was a natural for basketball and played center on the varsity team and was elected captain his senior year.

After graduating from Mankato State University and serving three years in the U. S. Army, Walt began his career as a teacher and coach. After earning his Master’s Degree (in speech and dramatic arts from the University of South Dakota), he and Raeanna moved to Willmar in 1971, where he is known as a successful businessman and entrepreneur, community leader, philanthropist, and volunteer. He is especially proud of his legacy of service with The Barn Theater, Rotary, Masonic Lodge and Shriners and his several years as a volunteer Willmar firefighter.

Walt has always been a strong supporter of everything Willmar. He played a major role as the chief fundraiser for the improvements made at Baker Field / Bill Taunton Stadium where he personally raised more than a half million dollars. Without Walt that facility would not be what it is today.

Those that know Walt know that he has a soft spot in his heart for those that are “down on their luck.” He has quietly helped many in a way that helps them get back on their feet with a chance to live the good life that Willmar offers.

Walt and Raeanna recently retired to Wayzata to be closer to their children and grandchildren. They continue to visit Willmar often and enjoy catching up with their friends and customers.

George “Pinky” Nelson

Dr. George "Pinky" Nelson
Dr. George "Pinky" Nelson

Top 5 Highlights

  • Played for legendary coaches Bill Hansen, Howard Iverson and Russ Adamson

  • All Conference, All Area, WCCO Team of the Week, Honorary Captain, Football 1967

  • Led conference with .500 average in Baseball 1965, All Conference 1965, 1967

  • Played on eight varsity teams, all with winning seasons

  • American Association of College Baseball Coaches Award of Honor


Dr. George “Pinky” Nelson is a 1968 Graduate of Willmar Senior High School. He earned a B.S. in physics from Harvey Mudd College and M.S. and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington. He has been married to Susie for 48 years and has two beautiful daughters, Aimee and Marti.

He has been the Director of Science Mathematics, and Technology Education and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Western Washington University, the Director of Project 2061 and senior staff at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Associate Vice Provost for Research and Professor of Astronomy at the University of Washington.

From 1978-1989 he served as a NASA astronaut. He flew three Space Shuttle missions that included an untethered spacewalk, the first on-orbit satellite repair, and was on the crew of the first mission following the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

His honors and awards include the Award of Honor from the American Association of College Baseball Coaches, the NASA Medal for Exceptional Engineering Achievement, the Faculty Outstanding Service Award from Western Washington University and the Pathfinder Award from the Seattle Museum of Flight. He is an elected member of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2009.

Brad Welker

Brad Welker
Brad Welker

Top 5 Highlights

  • The 86 play. Inside trap reverse. Six TDs in 7 carries (avg. 50 yds./carry)

  • All-Conference in basketball - Conference leader in FG%

  • Broke Class of ‘65 record in 4x110 yard relay

  • District Champion in the hurdles 1970 (high and low)

  • All-Conference in football - high school and college (Concordia)


Brad Welker moved into the Ramblewood addition at the outset of 3rd grade. The neighborhood was a crucible for athletes and he was from a sports oriented family. Originally from Benson, his dad, uncles and cousins were mainstays in multiple team sports; some of his dad’s records standing for over a quarter-century.

Brad benefited greatly from having Gilbertsons, Nelsons and others to compete against, coupled with work up, pickup and passing drills going on with boys of all ages and their dads – weather permitting – nearly every evening after school. Brad was perhaps best supported by the presence of his brother, Jeff, and his friend/teammate John Nelson in this August body.

Brad played football, basketball, baseball and ran track, but realizing that he had a bit of Miguel Santo syndrome at the plate, he opted for the hurdles and high jump once he had to choose. Brad prided himself in accepting the assignments given to him by coaches, thus playing center in basketball at 5’10”, and tight end instead of wing back on the gridiron. His vertical jump was significant in his career, a trait shared with his fellow inductee George Nelson.

Some of Brad’s most significant pleasurable accomplishments at WHS were being W Club President, Key Club Vice President and being first in his class promoted to the 1st choir. Along with his coaches and teachers, Brad would like to give a nod to John Esbjornson, who directed the musicals.

Brad feels he was lucky to have come from an intact family within a large clan that prioritized hard work, sports and civic pride. Following a 35-year career in sales, Brad is retired and divides his time between the Dominican Republic and his home in Columbia Heights with his lovely wife Adalgiza (Ada). Brad’s greatest sources of pride are his four children, nine grandchildren and two step-children; some of whom have already shown signs of hitting a baseball better than he once did.