Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson announced that his father, former Sheriff Les Nelson, passed away on Saturday at the age of 88. He says Les Nelson passed away at 10:15 Saturday morning at the Hospice Care Center, with his wife of 59 years, Wanda at his side, along with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mark Nelson says that the family sang hymns and spoke words of love and encouragement during those final hours. Les Nelson started with the Sheriff’s Office in 1950, eventually retiring in 1986 after being elected as Sheriff for three terms. He’s known for helping to save the lives of several prisoners in a jailhouse fire in the early 1960’s, and also gets credit for saving many lives in the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, by understanding that the mountain was going to erupt, and ordering people out of the area. Mark Nelson says that his father was “as fine a man as there ever was,” and that his heart for the community went far beyond public service. He says that his father will be sorely missed. Memorial services are pending.