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Car accident victim succumbs to injuries

In his final days, Nelson brought family and friends together
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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JEROME NELSON BENEFIT DINNER

Where: Stinky Mulligan’s Sports Bar & Grill,

10934 Combie Road, Auburn

When: Saturday, March 2, 1-4 p.m.

Cost: a donation

Donations may also be made at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/0RUq6.

For more information on the benefit dinner or an unannounced blood drive in April, contact Linda Warren at

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Auburn resident Jerome Nelson died early Tuesday morning at Sutter Roseville Medical Center from injuries he sustained in a recent car accident, leaving behind a gift of solidarity among family and friends who rallied to save him.

Nelson, 38, became the subject of a local fundraiser last week after a two-car accident on Highway 49 on Feb. 17 left him hospitalized with severe internal injuries. The driver and passenger of the other vehicle involved in the crash sustained only minor injuries. The driver of Nelson’s vehicle, Phillip Cazares of Grass Valley, died of his injuries on Thursday as Nelson fought for his life.

To help Nelson’s family with medical bills, friends in the Placer High School class of ’92 quickly organized an online fundraiser in Nelson’s name, collecting $7,600 from 93 contributors by the day of his death.

Tess Unger, a close friend of Nelson’s, described him as “an incredibly generous person” who inspired friends and strangers alike to donate money or prayers. Unger said she visited Nelson in the hospital on Saturday and felt he was aware, even then, that a whole community of people was there for him.

“I think it’s entirely fitting that he hung on for seven days from the time when, for all intents and purposes, he should have left us seven days ago. He produced miracle after miracle by hanging in for a full week, and we all hoped that those miracles were happening because he was going to live. But I now think maybe those miracles happened so that he could bring people together the way he has in the last week,” she said. “I feel so heartbroken and sad, and he went way too soon, and I still believe he had so much to give this world, but he left us with a pretty incredible parting gift.”

Linda Warren, a friend of the family, remembered Nelson as laid back, easy to get along with, and a “fabulous” guitar player in the process of getting his band back together. She also made an observation about the effect Nelson had on people, even strangers or distant acquaintances, over the past week.

“People that went to elementary school with him, people who haven’t talked to him in over 20 years just picked up like it was yesterday that Jerome had been a part of their life,” she said.

The accident that took the lives of Nelson and Cazares happened at about 6:50 p.m. Witnesses told the California Highway Patrol that a 1985 Chevrolet Corvette, driven by Cazares, was southbound on Highway 49 when it made a sudden left turn across the roadway near the Macy Place intersection across from Streeter Road. The Corvette was broadsided by a northbound 2013 Ford F-150, and the impact of the crash forced both vehicles off the road.

Emergency responders used the Jaws of Life to pull Cazares and Nelson out of the Corvette. Both were then flown to Sutter Roseville Medical Center.

A friend who had grown up with Nelson and remained friends with him from tee ball through high school and adulthood, J. R. Ziegelmann called him a “social chameleon” who connected with people from all walks of life and brought them together. He, too, saw a reflection of Nelson in the way his family and friends said goodbye.

“You don’t realize it until something like this happens. You know he has a lot of friends, and you know how much support he gets, but … I think that was his thing – getting people together,” he said. “I really feel like he hung on this long so everybody could get a chance to see him.”

The website in Nelson’s name will continue collecting donations for medical bills and service fees, and while memorial arrangements have yet to be made, two community events will be held in Nelson’s honor. Stinky Mulligan’s Sports Bar & Grill of Auburn, where Nelson was a bartender, will host a benefit dinner from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, and a Blood Source blood drive is being scheduled for April.