Remembering Ruth and Bill Nelson

In the Ruth and Bill Nelson Dining Room at the new HI-Boston hostel

WITH NEW HOSTELS NOW OPEN in both Boston and Houston, and with organizational unification combining finances and talent for growth, HI-USA’s future holds immense promise.  Yet as organizations like ours move forward, the past can hold important guidance and inspiration.  For HI-USA, Ruth and Bill Nelson are a true legacy.

Last Friday at the Grand Opening of the new HI-Boston hostel, hundreds of community members were in attendance, led by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, along with notable visitors like International Youth Hostel Federation President Edith Arnoult-Brill from France.   Compliments flowed for the new building, as both a traveler’s haven and a neighborhood asset.

Once the ribbon was cut, a mix of volunteers and staff made their way to the second floor for a more intimate occasion: the dedication of the comfortable new Ruth and Bill Nelson Dining Room, honoring two HI-USA legends who died in 2010.

Ruth and Bill Nelson began working with HI-USA (then called American Youth Hostels) in Northfield Massachusetts at the first hostel and first headquarters in the 1930’s.  And they continued with us, through the ups and downs that organizations go through, never losing their spirit of hostelling.  Bill served in various positions from staff to board over the years, often involving travel.  Ruth kept the home fires burning, raising their four girls and welcoming a steady stream of AYH staff and friends.  Along the way, they served as house parents (now called hostel managers) for 15 years at the Bantam Lake Hostel.

Bill spent many years training other house parents, as well as putting his mark on a leadership training program for potential trip leaders to take young people on adventures around the United States and abroad.  Some of those graduates became the organization’s leaders and hostel managers.   Many others carried forward insights gained and lessons learned into their own careers and families.

When Ruth and Bill died two years ago, friends and family banded together to raise funds to make a Ruth and Bill Nelson Dining Room a reality.  Why choose the dining room, in a six story building with so many other possibilities?  Ruth and Bill were legendary for their warm hospitality, which included good food, good drink and lively conversation.  It’s the perfect match in a beautiful new hostel.

As memories of Ruth and Bill Nelson were shared at the Dining Room dedication last week, so were lessons for all of us to live by:  commitment and good cheer, resilience and wisdom, fortitude and teamwork.   Fortunately, this legacy is also part of our organizational DNA as HI-USA rises.

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Support the Ruth and Bill Nelson Dining Room.   We need to raise just $19,000 to reach our $100,000 goal.  Make a donation through our website, or call David Kalter at 888-449-8727 or


By | 2018-04-19T19:32:22+00:00 June 27th, 2012|Our Community|1 Comment

About the Author:

Since 2000, Russ has been the CEO of Hostelling International USA (HI USA), a nonprofit, member organization founded on an enduring belief in the power of travel to foster a deeper understanding of people, places, and the world around. The HI USA hostel network is consistently recognized as one of the best in world by the International Youth Hostel Federation and by independent rating agencies. Russ has been a featured speaker at national and international conferences on topics ranging from experiential education to nonprofit management. Russ serves on the Boards of the UNWTO, US Travel Association, and WYSTC.

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