Benjamin Charles Nelson

November 9, 1993 ~ January 8, 2020

Benjamin Charles Nelson, 26, Tempe, AZ, originally Brandon, died Wednesday, January 8, 2020.

Visitation will be 11:30am-1pm, Thursday, January 16, 2020, at First Lutheran Church (300 Maple Street, Valley Springs, SD, with Funeral services at 1pm. A reception to celebrate Ben’s life will be held at the Valley Springs American Legion after the service. Interment to follow at Pleasant View Cemetery, Valley Springs.

Ben was born November 9, 1993 to Dawn and Daniel Johnson in Sioux Falls, SD; in 1997, he was adopted by Thomas Nelson.  Ben attended school in Brandon Valley and Tea, graduating from Tea Area High School in 2013.  During high school he enjoyed playing music, skateboarding, youth group, hanging out with friends, and playing in the worship band at Falls Church in Sioux Falls.  He moved to Arizona shortly after graduation and continued his passion for music and his church, playing guitar in the worship band at Living Word Bible Church. Ben had always thought that serving his country could be his path. He had an instinct to protect, whether it be the United States, college campus, a stranger, family member, or lost animal. Ben was recruited and trained to become a Marine in 2016. After medical testing, he was unable to continue due to asthma. Luckily, the Arizona Department of Corrections needed someone just like Ben. He worked inside a secure facility near Phoenix, as well as continuing in church leadership.

After this point, Ben struggled quite a bit with finding himself. He was trying to make sense of why he was feeling certain ways through his life, and came out as transgender 2017. It was after this, that he lost his job in the church. Ben wasn’t held up on labels as much as the person who someone was. Ben was the same person, whether named Ben or a chosen name of Ashley. Nothing changed in our eyes, but he felt better telling people of the transition that would take place over the years to come. As Ashley, she was trolled and harassed by random people she never even knew. This is very common being transgender, often targeted and attacked. Ben/Ashley was so loved, but when faced with judgment, depression, anxiety, and no way to feel better, this is what happens all too often.

Call to Action:  When you have someone in your life that needs a little extra love, send them a quick text or message them randomly, and do it often. Talk to them about your concerns, it may help save their life.

Ben is survived by his parents Dawn Nelson(Gran), Tom Nelson, and Daniel Johnson; sisters Jessica (Kris) Robbins and Emily (Shawn) Kuhnert, both of Brandon; his brother, Zach (Taylor) Nelson and sister, Hailey (Tony) Dvoracek, both of Sioux Falls; his aunt, Sandy (Allen), Valley Springs; his uncle, Richard (Theresa) Gran, Rapid City; great-grandmother, Crystal Johnson; grandparents, Charles and Esther Nelson; and nieces Emma, Adalyn, Mila, Elarah, Millie, and nephew Jack; friends, Haley Rose, Sara Robins, Jason Vespender, Trinity Flint and many more from the church and community.

Ben was preceded in death by his grandparents, HD and Betty Gran (Helgeson).

Share this post:
  • Jessica Robbins says:

    We love you so much ❤️

  • Stefanie Manning says:

    All of my love for you, my Benji who became a beautiful Ashley…your light will be missed…your talent…My love and condolences extend to Jessica and Emily and your family and friends that are missing you terribly as well. May your love and life continue to move us forward during this heartbreaking time.

  • Haley Rose Fogliano says:

    I will always love and miss you so much Ashley. My heart aches with this loss. You were so special to me and I hope you knew how much. I will forever miss our late night jam sessions, and your goofy sense of humor. I wasn’t able to help you even though I wanted to so bad. I’ve learned so much from this terrible thing and I will be sure to do my best to be the best person I can be, and take the lessons you taught me to help others. I love you forever and always. <3

  • Paula & Duane Cramer says:

    We are so sorry to hear of your loss. Our hearts go out to you and our prayers go up for you.

    Duane & Paula
    Note: Duane and Charles are cousins

  • christopher giles says:

    I didn’t know who you were but best wishes in this next chapter

  • Nancy Johnson says:

    I didn’t know Ben but I send my sincere condolences to your entire family. Thank you for being honest about Ben’s struggle. Ben/Ashley sounds like a wonderful person and I am so, so sorry for his pain and your loss.

  • Ruby Donovan says:

    I too lost a loved one to suicide, my heart goes out to the family and friends of Ben. Blessing to you all. Because I have gone through this, I am starting a support group for only ones who have lost a loved one to suicide. This is absolutely free, private and only to those who have lost. A support group lets you know that your feelings and emotions are not yours alone, it provides a forum to release these hurtful emotions. I live in the Aberdeen and Groton area, you can call or email me. 605-397-4441 Ruby Donovan

  • Char Layton says:

    What a beautiful friendship you had with Minjoo! I don’t know Ben/Ashley but I too have a FtM daughter. HRT is riskier to a male than to a female simply because female hormones produce more stress. Prayers to Ashley’s family and I wish you all to find Peace and love.

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