This might be news to many Philadelphians: On New Year’s Day there’s this thing called the Rose Bowl. The game in Pasadena, Calif., is preceded by a Parade of Roses, a nationally televised pageant of floral floats.
It happens at the same time the Mummers strut up Broad Street, so it is off the radar of many Philadelphians. Until last year, Patricia Nelson had never bothered to watch that “other” parade.
“A lot of our neighbors were not aware of what the Rose Parade was. Seriously,” said Patricia Nelson, of South Philadelphia. “So we’re, like, ‘It’s on New Year’s, and all the floats…it’s this wonderful event.’ They’re totally Mummers on New Year’s.”
For the first time in more than 30 years, Nelson and her husband David (himself a 42-year member of Jokers NYA), will miss the Mummer’s Parade. They will be on the other side of the country, participating in the Rose Bowl parade.
Mrs. Nelson was chosen by the Gift of Life Foundation, an organ transplant network, to join dozens of other donor families to ride in the Parade of Roses, on a float honoring their loved ones. Nelson was chosen, in part, because she started a memorial scholorship fund in her son David Jr.’s name.
In 2006 the Nelson’s son died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. He was 26 years old, an electrician, a new husband and a new stepfather. He was a fan of Jimmy Buffet, and had been parading with the Mummers since age 4.
“When he was brain dead in the hospital, and the Gift of Life people came in the room, she asked if my son was a donor,” said Nelson. “At the same time I said ‘Yes’ and my daughter-in-law screamed ‘No.’ I’m like, I know he was. We had a face-to-face conversation. I know he was. It was from that — and knowing he donated to help other people — that it seemed like a really good fit.”
David Nelson Jr. Memorial Fund gives money to children of parents who donated organs. Nelson, who works for the Philadelphia School District, also coordinates hundreds of team members every year for the Donor Dash, a 10K run raising money for Gift of Life.
Nelson is traveling to Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters. Her third daughter is staying in Philadelphia to perform with her Fancy club, the Avenuers. Throughout the day, the Nelsons at the Mummers parade will stay in touch with the Nelsons at the Parade of Roses, via text messages.
Watch the video below to see David Nelson Jr.’s 2001 performance with the Jokers Fancy Brigade. (They won.)