Craig Craig lost a devoted community member, William Kole Nielson, Wednesday in a car crash on U.S. Highway 40 about 1 mile east of Hayden.
His family is still reeling from the loss.
Nielson, 30, was born and raised in Craig. He started a family here with his wife, Britany Nielson. They were raising their two daughters, Briley Mae, 7, and Bailey Michele, 5, in his hometown.
“We’re hanging in there,” said Nielson’s father, Kent Nielson. “He had a heart of gold. He will truly be missed. We’re just finding out how more and more people loved him.”
One of Nielson’s brothers, Kiel Nielson, said the family is working through the tragedy together as they struggle with the loss.
“He touched so many people’s lives, and it’s sad to see we didn’t realize it until he passed away,” he said.
Kiel Nielson then said something that was repeated over and over by Nielson’s friends and family.
“He was a great dad to his two girls,” Kiel Nielson said.
Nielson, who worked with Colorado West, a local bottled water and ice business, was driving a company pickup when he was involved in a collision with a semi-truck. He was driving toward Craig and drifted into the wrong lane as an eastbound semi approached. He clipped the semi, forcing him off of the highway. The semi jackknifed before coming to a rest in the center of U.S. 40. Nielson was pronounced dead on the scene.
His co-workers spent Thursday calling clients that knew Nielson to share the sad news. He was like family to the owners of Colorado West, Brian and Lynne Herring. It was a devastating shock.
“He’s going to leave a big spot here,” Lynne Herring said while she wiped steadily falling tears from her face.
“A hole,” Brian Herring agreed. He admitted that he could barely speak.
But he managed to effuse admiration for Nielson as a family man.
“He loved life. He loved his family,” Brian Herring said.
Nielson would regularly rearrange his schedule so he could have Fridays off to spend with his wife and girls.
“He was just one of those good, good people,” Lynne Herring said.
Brian Herring nodded.
“All-around good person,” he said.
Nielson was also a man devoted to his church. He went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where his father is the bishop of one of the wards in Craig.
R.J. Crookston, bishop of Nielson’s ward, said he’s trying to comfort his church after the loss.
“I don’t think words can express what a family is going through and how to deal with this. It’s going to be a while to recover from something as tragic as this,” Crookston said. “It’s a tough thing to deal with.”
Friends are reaching out to the Nielson family by bringing over food and condolences. Cammy Winder, owner of Rising Star Youth Training Center and a friend of Britany Nielson, is taking an extra step.
She collected donations in a water jug all day at the gymnastics gym Thursday for Britany Nielson — to show her that people cared.
“I thought if she could see that, she would know everything will be OK,” Winder said.
Winder also started two donation funds where community members can deposit larger sums of money. She set up a fund at the Bank of Colorado and the Moffat County Schools Credit Union under Britany Nielson’s name.
“You never want to be the one in her shoes,” Winder said. “As a mom and a wife, and if this were ever to happen to me, I would hope people would treat me with the same kindness.”
In addition, the Nielson family is asking for love from the community during this trying time.
“Just send thoughts and prayers our way,” Kiel Nielson said.
Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.