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New beginning cut short for Brown's trainee
By Diane Dungey | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:51 PM

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Originally published Jan. 12, 1993

An employee at Brown's Chicken & Pasta for only five weeks, Marcus Nellsen was looking forward to beginning the first of a series of management trainee classes Saturday at the corporate headquarters in Oak Brook.

But Nellsen, 31, who was hired to fill in for owners Dick and Lynn Ehlenfeldt when they were away from the restaurant, was killed along with the Ehlenfeldts and four others sometime after the restaurant closed at 9 p.m. Friday.

"He was really enthused with the fact he was going to be part of management. He went in there with a lot of ideas. It was going to be a brand new start for him," said Joy McClain, Nellsen's girlfriend.

In fact, much about Nellsen's life was new. He met McClain in August, and a month later moved to Palatine to be with her. They had exchanged heart pendants to wear around their necks and were "soul mates," McClain said.

"I had always felt unloved. It was as if he was a gift from heaven," said McClain, 51. Nellsen spent most of his childhood in Chicago but moved in his teens to Tennessee, where his parents and many of his eight brothers and sisters still live. He joined the U.S. Navy at 17, and spent six years in the service, working as a cook and baker and earning three sea service medals, she said.

Nellsen, who has a 5-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, was laid off six months ago from his job with NutraSweet Co. when his division was closed, McClain said.

He worked for a brief time at Luther Village in Arlington Heights before being hired at Brown's and was laying the groundwork for a handyman business he hoped to launch on the side after his nine-week management training program at Brown's ended, McClain said.