News / Ottawa

Ottawa musician, dad to be remembered as more than a construction worker

Days after Marc Nelson died in a construction accident, it’s still hard for family members to play his folk music.

“It’s very difficult to hear him sing,” said wife Ryanne Nelson, who’s left to care for the couple’s two children, aged eight and five.

The 45-year-old Aylmer resident died on Monday at a work site at the Bank of Canada in Ottawa.

While news reports initially identified him only as a construction worker, friends and family members describe him as the friendly, soft-spoken musician who put music before everything and his kids before his music.

He worked in construction to support his passion for writing and playing folk songs. He landed about four gigs a week, including kids’ birthday parties, bars, legion halls, funerals, comedy nights and at two Olympic Games. Always smiling, he never shied away from talking to people.

On the day he died, his wife came home from the hospital and checked his email.

There was a short message from a woman he sat next to every day on the bus  to work. She had read the news about a still-unnamed 45-year-old construction worker who died on the job and she wanted to make sure he was okay.

It was a simple, sweet email that also said a lot about Nelson.

“How many people take the time to learn about the lady on the bus?” said a tearful Cathy Gordon, Nelson’s sister. “He did things nobody did. He could make friends effortlessly.”

Soon messages came flooding in from all around the world, including personal condolences from Ron Sexsmith – a musician Nelson idolized and once played with.

Stuart Watkins, a bass player who shared the stage with Nelson for the past decade, is organizing a show in his friend’s name – both to celebrate his life and remember him as a musician.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with being in construction, but that’s not who he was,” he said. “He was an artist and he was our friend.”

The show will be at Crazy Horse, at 115 Roland Michener Dr., on Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the event will collect donations towards the Nelson children’s education.

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