Geri & Darby

About Darby

Darby Nelson is an aquatic ecologist and biology professor emeritus at Anoka-Ramsey Community College and an author committed to exploring, preserving, and celebrating Minnesota’s rivers and lakes.

He began a lifelong love of the Minnesota River at age six when he and his family moved to the river town of Morton. In the 1980s, Darby served three terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where one of his most significant accomplishments was legislation creating the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

His first book, For Love of Lakes (2012), was a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in creative nonfiction. Darby has been a tireless advocate for the environment, serving on boards for Conservation Minnesota, the Freshwater Society, and the Nature Conservancy, and he was a charter member of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. He has received the Sigurd Olson Award from the Izaak Walton League, Environmentalist of the Year from the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Willard Munger Award from the Minnesota DFL, Steve Chapman Environment Award from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and several teaching awards. He has a PhD in ecology from the University of Minnesota.

Darby’s claim to fame is skiing all 47 Mora Vasaloppet cross country ski races. 

About Geri

Geri Nelson has a BS in biology and secondary education from the University of Minnesota and an MS in gifted and talented education from St Thomas. She taught physical science for 25 years in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, coaching science fair students and advising National Honor Society and the Girls’ Science and Math Retreat. She is active in church and several organizations including the League of Women Voters for 45 years, leading efforts in candidate forums, voter registration, and projects dealing with household hazardous waste and pollinator protection. She is proud to be Darby’s typist, first reader and events coordinator. Geri’s claim to fame is being an equal partner with Darby on our many adventures.

About Darby & Geri

Darby and Geri met at the Itasca Biological Station over a round leech with one hundred babies attached to her abdomen. One reason Geri married Darby was his creative ideas about fun things to do. They have enjoyed canoe and kayak expeditions throughout their marriage to Alaska, the Yukon, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Greenland, Norway, and Minnesota. They have travelled to the Galapagos Islands, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and all over the USA. Their adventures also include Darby’s six years in the Minnesota House of Representatives and the research, writing, and speaking events for For Love of Lakes and For Love of a River: The Minnesota. They jointly received Bemidji State University’s Distinguished Minnesotan Award and CURE’s Riverkeeper Award in 2016.

About John Hickman

Profile of man, standing by railing, trees in the background
John Hickman

John Hickman assisted in the writing of For Love of a River. John is a writer and documentary film producer who has been an advocate for the Minnesota River for more than twenty-five years. From 1992–94, he served on Governor Arne Carlson’s Minnesota River Citizens’ Advisory Committee and wrote the recommendations for the committee’s influential final report, Working Together: A Plan to Restore the Minnesota River. In 2011, he was executive producer of the film River Revival: Working Together to Save the Minnesota River, which premiered in prime time on the Twin Cities’ NBC affiliate.

How For Love of a River: The Minnesota book came to be

In 2011, Darby was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. For Love of Lakes came out that fall and we embarked on a journey to 150-plus events over seven years promoting lake stewardship and the book. After the first two very busy years, Darby delved into the research for and writing of For Love of a River: The Minnesota.

He completed the manuscript in 2016. By that time, we were attending our Memory Café support group for people with memory loss and their caregivers. We had to acknowledge his condition had become Alzheimer’s. His neurologist credited the hard mental work of writing as having slowed the progression of the disease.

For Love of Lakes went through countless revisions before we agreed it was ready to be published. Each refinement made the language more vivid and tightened it up. For the Minnesota River book, reasoning through organizational challenges and wording changes became increasingly difficult. We knew from the beginning that we were in a race against time and memory loss, and eventually we turned to our friend John Hickman to help us through the final stages of the book. His edits were true to Darby’s manuscript; he found Darby’s voice! Thanks goes to John for rescuing the manuscript from languishing on our computer!