John (known as Burt to everyone he grew up with) was born near Almont, North Dakota to Grace and Lawrence Nelson on December 22, 1921.
Almont was a small country town that finally received electricity when John was about eight. John was nine when he lost his father to a stroke, leaving himself, 3 sisters: Margie, Frances, Audrey, and his mother.
Almont's only school was a single building with grades one to12. His graduating class had six students, and John was the Salutatorian-earning him a 4-year tuition scholarship to Jamestown College…the total tuition was $400. Not owning a car, John would hitchhike the 150 miles from Almont to Jamestown.
Financial issues forced John to drop out of college. To support himself he started teaching school in rural 1-room schoolhouses, sometimes teaching grades 1-8. His return to Jamestown College was thwarted when he received his draft notice in 1942.
To avoid the chance of the draft, John enlisted in the Navy (following in his father's footsteps) a few days after school closed and about 2 days before he was scheduled to report for the draft. John spent his war years in the South Pacific on several different ships.
John reported to Washington, D. C. for training classes in 1944. While there he met Louise (she and her 2 friends got the attention of 3 sailors by 'throwing peanuts at them'). John and Louise dated for 7 weeks, and then married!
After living in: Norfolk, VA; Newport, RI; and New York City; John was re-assigned to the South Pacific, and he and Louise were separated by half the world.
After the war, John and Louise spent one winter in North Dakota. This did not agree very well with Louise. In the spring, they bought a 1934 Chrysler Airflow and headed back to Washington D.C.
Here John, found a job as a Correctional Officer-the start of a 31-year career with the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons.
In 1947, their first son Lawrence John was born, and in 1951 they welcomed their second son Steven Guy.
John developed an interest in flying, and in 1954 joined a flying club in College Park Md. This led to many years as a pilot. The highlight of which, was a cross-country trip with a boyhood friend Gordon Templeton. He and Gordon flew a small 2-seater single-engine airplane from Washington D.C. to Almont N.D., a 4 ½ day trip.
In 1959, John transferred to the Federal Penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA as Personnel Officer. He enjoyed competitive pistol shooting on the institution team.
Early 1971, John began working at the newly established Correctional Institution in South Fort Worth, TX later in the fall, Louise and Larry moved to Fort Worth. Steve followed completing his fall semester at Penn State University.
In 1973, John became the Regional Personnel Officer at the newly established regional office in Dallas, where he continued until his retirement in 1977, 1 week before his 56th birthday.
While living in Lewisburg, John started his long love affair with the game of golf. He played off and on during his working years. After retirement, he joined the Arlington Senior Men's Golf Association, ASMGA. He served many duties including Club President.
John always loved to sing, and while in Dallas became involved with the local chapter of the Barber Shop Quartet where he enjoyed the harmonious chorale. His other love was gadgets…he bought one of the first VW bugs in 1958 – even driving the family from Washington DC to Almont ND for summer vacations in a bug! He also liked electronic gadgets, from early Polaroid and 35mm cameras, to embracing the digital age with computers, smart phones and an iPad. He passed this love on to his kids.
With retirement, he had a chance to pursue another interest he had-woodworking. John became quite skilled at using a scroll saw and many friends and relatives are the proud owners of a custom designed piece of wooden art created by John.
John really enjoyed the retired life; he and Louise took many trips and cruises to the far corners of the world. After health issues slowed them down, John still enjoyed his golf outings and wood working projects. He eventually had to drop out of actively participating in golf, but still worked on his wood projects right up until the month before he was called home.
John is survived by his wife of 69 years, Louise; their 2 sons Lawrence (Larry) and wife Linda; Steve and wife Cheryl; Grandchildren Michelle, Michael, Jenne, and Alex; Great grandchildren Mason, Shea, Avalon, Joshua and Caleb. He is also survived by his sisters Margie Peterson, Francis Rusch, and Audry Olson, all still living in North Dakota. He was preceded in death by his infant brother Leslie, his parents, and his daughter-in-law Lisa.
Memorials are suggested in memory of John to the