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Jessie Nelson, owner of Nelson Brothers Café, dies at 78

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Ameera Steward
The Birmingham Times

Jessie Nelson, owner of Nelson Brother’s Café in Birmingham’s historic Fourth Avenue Business District, has died. He was 78.

He was owner of Nelson Brother’s Café at 17th Street North since 1990, when he took over from the original owners – his father and uncle. The soul food restaurant attracted customers nationwide for its specialty of pork chops, rice, and gravy and its renowned sweet potato pie. The café serves breakfast all day, too.

Mr. Nelson was a man who would give anything to help his community, said his daughter Antrice Nelson, a third-generation Nelson who works in her family’s establishment at 312 17th St. N., along with her son Elan, 22.

“If it wasn’t material things [that he gave] it was always a word of wisdom to someone,” she said. “He was all for community…he believed in doing fundraisers for the kids, he would make donations to the different high schools – whoever came in looking for something for their school or their church, he would make a donation to that. He’s helped people go off to school…It’s so much I just can’t describe it . . . he will be greatly missed.”

She added that he will be remembered most for “his love for people.”

“No matter how downtrodden they were – a lot of our customers are basically homeless – he never treated them any different because of their circumstance,” she said. “So, they got the same treatment and respect that the mayor would get when he came in here.”

Others also fondly remembered Mr. Nelson as a thoughtful, honest, kindhearted man.

James Carroll, who has been a customer at the café for more than 50 years, said Mr. Nelson had a magnificent personality and could speak with any and every one and “he lived a life so faithful and true.”

Valerie Williams has been one of Mr. Nelson’s customers for more than 20 years and said he was kindhearted, sweet and lovable. “[He] also kept you laughing,” she said. “I’m just going to miss him so much.”

He treated everyone the same and people will remember that he “was very professional in his work…I love him and I’m going to miss him,” she said.

Dominique Mitchell knew Mr. Nelson for 40 years and said he served as a role model by being a “hard worker, being honest, helping and giving, listening and just being himself . . . he set an example for life,” she said.

Nelson is survived by his two daughters, Antrice, and Deanna Minard; his brother Napoleon Nelson; his sister, Rita Nelson and a host of other loving family and friends.

The wake will be held, April 25, at 6 p.m. in Bushelon Funeral Home in West End. The funeral will be Saturday, April 26, at noon in Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church of Titusville with the burial at Elmwood Cemetery.