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
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
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