Sherry (Staff) Nelson
Sherry (Staff) Nelson

Sherry (Staff) Nelson 1986 recalls her first day of classes at the University of Minnesota Crookston as a Trojan. During attendance in 1985, Nelson said the professor called out for Judy Staff and Sherry Staff.

“Are you two related?” the professor asked.

Nelson remembered putting her head down and quietly saying, “No,” while her mother exclaimed, “Yes, that’s my daughter!”

During Nelson’s senior year at Crookston High School, her father, unfortunately, passed away. Her mother then decided to get her GED and attend college alongside her daughter, Sherry. They had their first class together on the first day of school.

Judy and Sherry attended U of M Crookston for two years. Judy (Staff) Perreault 1986 went on to study at Minnesota State University Moorhead, while Sherry continued her education and played basketball at Bemidji State University.


Sherry Staff Nelson playing basketball for the Trojans
Sherry (Staff) Nelson playing basketball for the Trojans

Nelson played softball and basketball for U of M Crookston; softball in 1985 and basketball from 1985-1986. She held many career and season records in women’s basketball. In 1986, she was co-captain, team MVP (most valuable player), and named to the All-Northwest Division First Team. Nelson also received All-State Honorable Mention Recognition and was inducted into the U of M Crookston Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. Nelson’s 1986-1987 Bemidji State basketball team was inducted into the Bemidji State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.

In October 2023, Nelson presented her dear friend, Lisa (Rongen) Duckstad 1985, with her induction into the U of M Crookston Athletic Hall of Fame at the Alumni Awards Celebration during Homecoming. Nelson and Duckstad played basketball together in high school and for the U of M Crookston.

“It was a full circle moment for me, as Lisa was a guest at my UMC Athletic Hall of Fame induction in 2006,” Nelson expressed.

“Coming back to the UMC campus brings back a flood of memories of the great times I spent there…I wouldn’t trade my years there for anything,” she reminisced.

At Bemidji State University, Nelson studied elementary education and coaching. After graduating, she taught sixth grade and coached volleyball, basketball, and track from 1990-1993 in Fertile, Minn.

Sherry (Staff) Nelson and her family
Matt, Hunter, Sherry and Hayden Nelson

In the fall of 1993, Nelson moved to Roseau, Minn., where she continued teaching sixth grade and coaching. There, she was the head volleyball coach for eight years and was the junior varsity coach for the fastpitch softball team. In 1999, Nelson’s volleyball team made it to state for the first time in the program’s history. Although they didn’t win at state, the 1999 team was inducted into the Roseau High School Athletic Hall of Fame in October 2023.

In spring 2023, Nelson retired after 33 years of teaching sixth grade. Her favorite part about teaching in Roseau was the small-town atmosphere.

“The kids are great and many of my colleagues became dear friends over the years,” Nelson shared.

Nelson now spends her time as a substitute teacher at Roseau Elementary School and is an EMT (emergency medical technician) for the local ambulance service. Nelson and her husband, Matt, have been married since 2001 and have two sons, Hunter (23) and Hayden (20). 

Written for the December 2023 Torchlight e-Newsletter