Husband reflects on wife who died in fatal Cascades fall, UW professor admired by students

VIDEO: Husband remembers wife, renowned physicist after fall, death at Alpine Lakes

A University of Washington professor who fell to her death at Alpine Lakes Sunday is being remembered as a renowned physicist.

David Kaplan, also a UW professor, watched his wife, Ann Nelson fall.

>> 1 hiker dies in fall, 3 rescued in Cascades

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For years the couple worked side by side at the university, but Kaplan returned to work Wednesday for the first time without her.

He said she was admired for her brilliant mind and her compassion.

“Watching her fall and die was terrible. It’s just a terrible thing to have in my mind,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan entered his wife’s office and explained to KIRO 7 how an accidental slip caused a fatal fall.

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“And I look up and I see her pitch over sideways into the gulley. She fell 20 feet on her head and tumbled down the gulley.

The love of his life was gone in a moment.

“I knew right away she was dead,” Kaplan said.

Her death was not just devastating to loved ones, but to people around the world who she touched through science.

Kaplan explains, “Oh, I’ve been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for her.”

KIRO 7 found out that the renowned theoretical physicist had a great heart for her students and for social justice, which flowers and notes set by her office showed.

“Here’s one that says thank you for everything that you gave to our physics community and especially pushing for more of (an) inclusive environment for minority students,” Kaplan said.

He wished his wife had more time.

After seeing the way, she impacted lives, he knows just how to keep her memory alive.

Kaplan said, “There’s nothing I can do to bring her back, so I should try to be like her. Be more like her.”

Nelson was with her husband and two other friends at Alpine Lakes.

She was a very experienced hiker who was a member of Seattle’s Mountaineering Club for more than 20 years.