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Nelson and Betty Palmer outside the Narrandera, New South Wales Church, 1982.

Photo courtesy of Australasian Record, December 11, 1982.

Palmer, Nelson William (1920–2012) and Betty Maud (Gorrell) (1920–2020)

By Lester Devine

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Originally trained as a secondary history teacher, a career long Adventist educator, Lester Devine, Ed.D., has taught at elementary, secondary and higher education levels and spent more than three decades in elected educational leadership positions in two divisions of the world Church, NAD (1969-1982) and SPD (1982-2005). He completed his forty years of denominational service with a term as director of the Ellen G. White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale University College in Australia where his life-long hobby of learning and presenting on Adventist heritage issues became his vocation. 

First Published: July 16, 2020

Pastor Nelson Palmer was a career pastor, missionary, and Bible teacher in the Australasian and the Trans-Africa Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church from 1941-1984. In retirement he and his wife Betty continued their service as volunteers in Vanuatu and Lord Howe Island.

Early Life and Education

Nelson Palmer was born in Sydney, New South Wales (NSW), on January 2, 1920.1 Reared as an Adventist, he completed his Leaving Certificate in NSW in 1937. He attended Avondale College in 1936 and 1937 and then Longburn Adventist College (LAC) in New Zealand from 1938 to 1940. He was baptized there in 1938 and subsequently graduated from the business course. He also completed the preteaching and preministerial programs at LAC.2

Denominational Service

Palmer began his denominational employment in the North New Zealand Conference where he was initially appointed as a literature evangelist at the end of 1940.3 However, his service records indicate that from 1941 until 1944 he was engaged in “Bible work.”4 He was located in Auckland in 1941 working with W. J. Richards and in Wellington between 1942 and 1944.5

During his years of training he had met Betty Maud Gorrell, who had been born on February 18, 1920, at Maxwell near Wanganui in North New Zealand.6 She had been a student at Longburn College. She, too, had accepted an appointment in denominational service in North New Zealand at the end of 1940 and taught in the business department at Longburn College for two years.7 Nelson and Betty were married on December 15, 1942.8 They were to have two daughters Judith and Jillian, who both were born in Fiji.9

Their second denominational appointment was to Rarotonga in the Cook Islands where, in the latter part of 1944 and 1945, Palmer worked in the Mission Training School.10 Back in New Zealand for three years of pastoral and evangelistic work from 1945 until 1948 the family then spent the years 1948 until 1956 as missionaries in Fiji. In 1953 Pr. and Mrs. Palmer had attended the Victorian camp meeting, very likely while on furlough, and there met up with Dr. Calvin Palmer, from the nearby Warburton Hospital. The two brothers had not seen each other for 14 years.11

Between 1956 and 1962 the family was stationed at Paglum in the Western Highlands of the Territory of New Guinea and then at Moruma in the Chimbu.12 Palmer then worked as a Bible teacher at Kabiufa College between 1962 and 1966, also assisting in the ministerial training program located there.13 Late in 1966 the family returned to Australia where Palmer was appointed to engage in evangelism in the Victorian Conference.14 In June 1968 the family moved to the Greater Sydney Conference.15 During his time in that conference Palmer took a brief leave of absence to address a health problem.16 Pr. Palmer was then appointed to the Coral Sea Union Mission at the end of 1969 where he was a Bible teacher at Sonoma College on the island of New Britain.17 At the beginning of 1974 he transferred to the Western Australian Conference.18 Then in March 1975 he accepted an invitation to the Trans-African Division where he worked in Zambia training new ministers, serving in that role until 1981.19 Returning to Australia, he was appointed to the South New South Wales Conference where he cared for the Narrandera, Lake Cargelico, Griffith, and Leeton churches.20 He retired on April 1, 1984.21 Subsequently, he and his wife served as volunteers in both Vanuatu and on Lord Howe Island.22

Nelson Palmer died on August 2, 2012.23 Betty celebrated her one hundredth birthday with family and friends on February 18, 2020.24 She died on November 8, 2020.25

Sources

“Among those attending . . .” Australasian Record, January 19, 1953.

“An exchange has been arranged . . .” Australasian Record, February 26, 1968.

Brown, R. K. “Home Missions.” Record, December 11, 1982.

“Distribution of Labour.” Australasian Record, September 30, 1940.

“Nelson Palmer obituary.” Adventist World, November 2012.

Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’ Document: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’

Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’ Document: ‘Worker’s Biographical Record.’

Nelson William Palmer Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’ Document: ‘Palmer, N. W.’

Nelson William Palmer Service Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’ Document: ‘Service Record.’

Nelson William Palmer Sustentation Records. South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives. Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’ Document: ‘Pastor N. W. Palmer.’

“Owing to the need . . .” Australasian Record, April 1, 1946.

Palmer, C. S. “Palmer – Gorrell marriage.” Australasian Record, January 18, 1943.

Palmer, Nelson. “A Visit to Yuka Hospital.” Australasian Record, December 3, 1979.

“Pastor and Mrs Nelson Palmer . . .” Australasian Record, February 25, 1974.

“Pastor Nelson Palmer . . .” Australasian Record, August 1, 1966.

Pastor W. J. Richards . . .” Australasian Record, June 9, 1941.

“Senior Volunteers Start Aore Lay Training School in Vanuatu.” Record, February 6, 1988.

“The Jury Brought in a Verdict of ‘Guilty.’” Australasian Record, June 12, 1944.

“Variety Is the Spice of Mission Life.” Australasian Record, January 2, 1961.

Whitlock, Stacey. “Globe-trotting Missionary, Victoria Point’s Betty Palmer, Marks 100.” Redland City Bulletin. https://www.redlandcitybulletin.com.au/story/6636164/globe-trotting-missionary-celebrates-100/?fbclid=lwAR1v5QjGOBfyPazHJyl5ZGrVQ5hY6V1uogOuMN92tPi4gxMsnEq99PyzBXM.

Notes

  1. Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Worker’s Biographical Record.’

  2. Ibid.

  3. “Distribution of Labour,” Australasian Record, September 30, 1940, 6.

  4. Nelson William Palmer Service Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Service Record.’

  5. Pastor W. J. Richards . . . ,” Australasian Record, June 9, 1941, 8; “The Jury Brought in a Verdict of ‘Guilty,’” Australasian Record, June 12, 1944, 4; Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Palmer, Nelson William.’

  6. Ibid.

  7. “Distribution of Labour,” Australasian Record, September 30, 1940, 6; Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Worker’s Biographical Record; C. S. Palmer, “Palmer – Gorrell marriage,” Australasian Record, January 18, 1943, 7.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Worker’s Biographical Record.’

  10. Ibid; “Owing to the need . . . ,” Australasian Record, April 1, 1946, 8.

  11. “Among those attending . . . ,” Australasian Record, January 19, 1953, 8.

  12. Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Worker’s Biographical Record;’ “Variety Is the Spice of Mission Life,” Australasian Record, January 2, 1961, 6.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Nelson William Palmer Biographical Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Worker’s Biographical Record;’ “Pastor Nelson Palmer . . . ,” Australasian Record, August 1, 1966, 16.

  15. “An exchange has been arranged . . . ,” Australasian Record, February 26, 1968, 16.

  16. Nelson William Palmer Sustentation Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Pastor N. W. Palmer.’

  17. Nelson William Palmer Service Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Palmer, N. W.’

  18. Nelson William Palmer Service Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Service Record;’ “Pastor and Mrs Nelson Palmer . . . ,” Australasian Record, February 25, 1974, 16.

  19. Nelson Palmer, “A Visit to Yuka Hospital,” Australasian Record, December 3, 1979, 8.

  20. R. K. Brown, “Home Missions,” Record, December 11, 1982, 3.

  21. Nelson William Palmer Sustentation Records; South Pacific Division of the General Conference Archives; Folder: ‘Palmer, Nelson William;’ Document: ‘Pastor N. W. Palmer.’

  22. “Senior Volunteers Start Aore Lay Training School in Vanuatu,” Record, February 6, 1988, 10.

  23. “Nelson Palmer obituary,” Adventist World, November 2012, 30.

  24. Stacey Whitlock, “Globe-trotting Missionary, Victoria Point’s Betty Palmer, Marks 100,” Redland City Bulletin, https://www.redlandcitybulletin.com.au/story/6636164/globe-trotting-missionary-celebrates-100/?fbclid=lwAR1v5QjGOBfyPazHJyl5ZGrVQ5hY6V1uogOuMN92tPi4gxMsnEq99PyzBXM.

  25. Glen Cozens, email to Barry Oliver, April 11, 2021.

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Devine, Lester. "Palmer, Nelson William (1920–2012) and Betty Maud (Gorrell) (1920–2020)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 16, 2020. Accessed June 27, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9823.

Devine, Lester. "Palmer, Nelson William (1920–2012) and Betty Maud (Gorrell) (1920–2020)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 16, 2020. Date of access June 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9823.

Devine, Lester (2020, July 16). Palmer, Nelson William (1920–2012) and Betty Maud (Gorrell) (1920–2020). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 27, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9823.