Hagar Nelson hospitalized in Wisconsin

David Hagar Nelson with George Jones in 2010

If you spend much time at bluegrass festivals, you know that some of the most colorful characters you’ll meet aren’t always on stage.

One such is Hagar Nelson of Wisconsin, known far and wide as The Cookie Man for the bags of large, homemade cookies which he brings to festivals for all his friends in the bands. He’s a big, gregarious, Santa-Claus-looking sort of guy who is a staple at festivals in the upper midwest.

Hagar is a musician, who has played bass in bluegrass bands this past thirty years, but even when he’s not performing, folks look out for him at all the festivals and bluegrass events. He’s hard to miss, with his bald dome surrounded by a wild head of hair, and a full grey beard.

His friend, Libby Krouse, has shared some sad news about Nelson which we would like to pass along. On August 17 he experienced dizziness and began to feel disoriented, and was taken to the emergency department of the hospital in Two Rivers. Doctors discovered that he had a brain bleed owing to extremely high blood pressure. This condition was further exacerbated by him taking blood thinners since undergoing open heart surgery in 2009.

Later that same day Hagar was transferred to Bay Care in Green Bay where he was in the ICU for the next 11 days. No surgery was required, and his physicians said that his condition was good, but some disorientation remains though it pops in and out during periods of lucidity.

Libby says that a full recovery is expected, but wanted to get the word out before next weekend’s East Troy Bluegrass Festival, where everyone will be expecting to see him.

“He was transferred to The Atrium in Two Rivers today. I still don’t know everything and will meet with his caregivers next week. I do know he doesn’t understand why he is in the hospital. He slurs his words, so he has to have speech therapy. He’s very confused and can recall only his closest friends and family. He’ll have physical therapy to regain his mobility, and he has to just let his brain rest. I was told he’ll have a full recovery, or near full recovery, so we’ll get our Hagar back. There will not be a phone in his room for awhile, until he gets more memory back. Please pray for our dear friend for a speedy recovery.”

People like Hagar are a huge part of the bluegrass scene, who have given so much of themselves to the music and the folks who love it. Over the years, Nelson has donated a great deal of money to bluegrass festivals, and given hundreds of instruments to children who wanted to learn to play. He is a bluegrass hero, and we certainly hope to hear some good news soon about a complete recovery.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.