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Obituary (WA): John Frederick Nelson '56

Posted on 03/26/2018

John F. Nelson, 85, husband of Virginia S. Nelson passed away in Spokane, WA on March 9, 2018. He was born in Wichita, KS on October 22, 1932, the son of the late Hugo & Helen Nelson. He attended grade schools in Denver and Colorado Springs, CO, Salt Lake City, UT and the Ursuline Academy and St Mary's in Great Falls, MT. He graduated in the first class of the Great Falls Central Catholic High School in 1951. He attended Columbian Prep School in Washington, DC prior to his acceptance to the United States Naval Academy. He graduated from the Naval Academy in June 1956. He accepted a commission as second lieutenant in the United States Air Force upon graduation.

In the USAF, he was stationed at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS. After this he did a tour at Wheelus Field in Tripoli, Libya. He returned to the United States in 1960 to Vandenberg AFB in California where he was on the launch crew of the first Titan I missile. He resigned his commission in 1962 and went to work as a Senior Design Engineer for North American Aviation on the Minuteman II missile program. When his father passed away, he returned to Great Falls to manage Nelson-Scofield Tire Company which his father opened in 1941. He renamed it Nelson Tire Company in 1969 and moved to a new location in downtown Great Falls.

He joined the Knights of Columbus while at the Naval Academy. He worked his way up the chairs of the Knights of Columbus in Great Falls and the State of Montana, becoming the State Deputy in 1975. He was a member of the Great Falls Lions Club from 1967 to 1994. He was president of the Montana Tire Dealers Association in the late 1980s. He served on committees in the Montana Catholic Diocese. He was on the board of directors of the Eighth Judicial District Youth Guidance Home and was a volunteer for the of Montana State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). He closed Nelson Tire Company in 1994 and moved to his mountain home in Mortimer Gulch not far from Augusta, MT. He delighted in his retirement in the mountains of Montana. He and Virginia moved to Spokane, Washington in 2016.

John resided in Great Falls and August, MT for the past 50 years. He is survived by his wife, Virginia S. Nelson currently of Spokane, WA, who he married in 1987. He is also survived by his four daughters from his first marriage to Marty McGee of Eugene, OR. His daughters are Tia Nelson, DVM (Derek Brown) of Helena, MT, Trish Nelson, Attorney of Bend, OR, Christina Nye, MD (Scott) of Spokane, WA, and Diana Lawson, Microsoft Executive (Mark) of Issaquah, WA. His step children in his marriage to Virginia are Kim Gilmore and David Gilmore (Diane) of Portland, OR. His grandchildren include Luke and Kurt Fehlig, Benjamin and Patrick Heatherman, Abigail, Madeline and Joseph Nye, and step grandchild Kayla Letcher. He is also survived by his sister Anne Gannon (Jack) and his brother-in-law Richard Gannon (Debra). He was preceded in death by his sister Theresa Gannon (Richard).

A funeral Mass will be held at St Ann's Cathedral in Great Falls on April 14, 2018 at 11:00 AM with a reception following at the Knights of Columbus Hall. Memorials can be sent to Great Falls Central Catholic High School or to the donor's choice.

Published in Great Falls Tribune on Mar. 25, 2018