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Novelli (Nels) Venerus was born in Cordenons, Italy on Jan. 1, 1949, the second son of Cesare and Teresa Venerus.

His father moved to Cochenour, Ont. in 1953 to work in the gold mine. Nels, his older brother, Mario, and mother followed by boat, arriving in Canada on Feb. 5, 1955,

Nels is survived by brothers, Mario and wife, Marilyn, of Fort Frances, Ont., Terry of Chandigarh, India, George of Ontario, and Dino and wife, Carla, of Ont.; Goddaughters, Shannon Venerus Brown, Erin Ewers, and Haydin Bunn; nephew, Christopher; nieces, Tina and Melissa; grand-nephews, Cody and Carter; grand-niece, Liberty; and many, many close friends.

Nels lived in Cochenour as a boy. At age 15, he began his junior hockey career in Flin Flon, Man. with the Flin Flon Bombers. He then played for the Fort Frances Royals for two years, followed by a season split between the Winnipeg Jets and Saskatoon Blades.

He turned pro and played two years for the San Diego Gulls. After playing a season for the Cranbrook Royals, he joined the Spokane Flyers in 1974 and rose to local fame. He was an integral part of the Flyers, and later, the Spokane Chiefs, retiring as team captain in 1985.

Nels won two Allan Cup championships with the Chiefs, in 1976 and 1980.

He continued to play hockey for another 25 years, as one of the founders of the Spokane Oldtimers and the Grinders hockey association, last skating on the ice in the spring of 2010.

Nels lived life to the fullest. He was an avid softball player, golfer, and downhill skier, and could be found all over town, and especially at local golf courses like Wandermere and Downriver (to name a couple) during the summer months and at Mount Spokane all winter long.

He worked for years with Don Oliveri at Keith’s Music and General Amusements.

Nels cherished his friends, and was a true friend to so many. He loved to laugh, work hard and play hard, and was the first to lend a helping hand.

He preferred no recognition for his many good deeds. He was a sponsor of youth hockey, a coach, and also had a special place in his heart for kids who were in need.

He headed up the annual Montana golf trip with the “hockey boys” each of the last 25 years, and for the last several years was the only guy allowed on the gals’ annual wine trip.

He gave so much love, and loved his friends and family so completely. His only regret was that he would be leaving friends behind.

Nels was a hard act to follow. He will be missed and never forgotten.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Nels’ memory to The Nels Venerus Trust for Youth Hockey c/o P.O. Box 18738, Spokane, Wash., 99228 or a charity of your choice that may benefit children in need.

A vigil service was held Friday, April 8, 2011 at 6 p.m. at the funeral home on Division Street.

A funeral mass was celebrated Saturday, April 9, 2011 at 1 p.m. at St. Aloysius Catholic Church (330 E. Boone).

Please visit Nels’ online tribute and leave a condolence at