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15494 Mr. James Clark Nelson
August 20, 1925 - December 22, 0001



Published Assembly Sep 2002

James C. Nelson * '46
No. 15494 * 20 Aug 1925 - 22 Dec 2001
Died in Rohnert Park, CA * Cremated and ashes to be scattered in the future.

JAMES CLARK NELSON was born and raised in Walla Walla, WA. His sister, Joan, recalled their life there: "Our father was a dentist and much respected. Walla Walla was an idyllic small town in the 1930s. When he was old enough, our father took Jim hunting and the dogs were his pals. When he graduated from high school as the valedictorian of his class, he also won his appointment to West Point. Our father was bursting with pride." A boyhood friend, Bob Freeman also told of Jim's life in Walla Walla: "Jim loved to fly fish at an early age and summer days found him and his buddies fishing the nearby streams. The highlight of the fishing season was a trip to the Wallows Mountains in Oregon to fish the streams and high mountain lakes. It was a happy and adventuresome life." After receiving his appointment to West Point, Jim joined the Class of 1946 on the banks of the Hudson on 1 July 1943.

Cadet life in A1 Company presented few problems for Jim. Roommate, Jim Johnson, wrote: "On meeting Jim, one was immediately struck by his abounding good humor. Even when situations did not favor him, he met them all with a grin and his self-deprecating humor. He was also adept at separating the important from the trivial, which was vital as a cadet. Jim was highly intelligent and articulate. Academics were no challenge for him and he was very generous in giving his time to coaching less talented classmates. Due to a physical disability, Jim was not commissioned at graduation. He entered the Harvard Masters Degree Program in engineering which he completed in one year."

After receiving his Masters in Civil Engineering from Harvard in 1947, Jim enjoyed a long and illustrious career in the heavy construction business. On 12 January 1953, he married Mary Hamilton in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. By 1975 he had risen to President of Spencer, White & Prentis Inc. After working for several other companies, he later became President of Foundation Constructors in 1986. His expertise took him to both the east and west coasts and to Europe. He was involved in such projects as the World Trade Center foundation and the foundation for the Transamerica Building in San Francisco. Jim and Mary moved to Rohnert Park, CA in 1987. Shortly thereafter, Mary developed MS. Jim started a consulting business then and engaged in expert witness work. Later he became the full time caregiver for Mary and stopped work altogether.

Jim died 22 December 2001. Survivors include his wife, Mary; sons Alec, Patrick and James; daughters Mariclair, Barbara and Kathryn; sister, Joan and seven grandchildren.

Jim Nelson was a true son of West Point. He lived his life with the Motto: Duty, Honor, Country always guiding his life.

Bob Freeman, recalled: "Jim will be remembered by a host of friends. He was a gentleman and true sportsman. May he rest in peace and rise in glory."

Friend, Ned Barker, remembered: "He cared for people and respected them for who they were, not what they were. My recollection of him as a husband and father is one of a loving and caring person. I don't remember him ever saying a harsh or unkind word. I believe that he is now enjoying that peace of mind and soul and body which only God can give and he will be waiting to greet each of us someday with his typical warm, sometimes gruff and loud 'Hello there!' - minus his cigar, of course."

Jim's daughter in law, Theresa, wrote: "Jim was a quiet man; he loved his children. I will always love him and miss him so very much. I will forever hear his voice asking me 'so how is business?'"

Jim was a member of "The Moles", a professional group of individuals currently or formerly engaged in the construction of Tunnels, Subway, Sewer, Foundations, Marine, Sub Aqueous or other heavy construction. On 21 January 2002, The Moles passed a resolution on the death of James C. Nelson. It read in part:
By his death we have lost a beloved associate whose outstanding character reflected high honor upon his position and whose memory is a worthy inspiration for all time. The Moles will always be proud that their membership included James C. Nelson.
It is fitting that we should record Mr. Nelson's personal qualities as they were revealed to the member of The Moles in our contacts. His was a sterling character. Its genuineness was reflected in his gentlemanly demeanor at all times, his high minded sense of duty to his associates, his unselfishness, his understanding and his wholesome good fellowship."

Son, Jim, remembered his father: "As my mother said, 'He was a great man.' I always admired him greatly and I respected him dearly for taking care of our mother (who had MS for 10 years when he died) for so long.

The Class of 1946 proudly adds the words that would mean so much to him: "Well Done, Jim; Be Thou At Peace!"

'46 Memorial Article Project and his family


Personal Eulogy

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