Dad died

My father, James “Jim” Nelson, has died, at the age of 96, almost 97. His wife of more than 66 years, my mom, died on Thanksgiving Day two and a half years ago. He was not the same after she passed away, but he was a tough old bird that was still going for walks largely unassisted as recently as last year. His recent decline from needing a bit of help, to needing a walker, to needing a wheelchair, to not being able to get out of bed without assistance was relatively rapid. His mother had survived to 99. He died with both my brothers near at hand, as the morning sun peaked above the horizon and into his window, with birds chirping outside on the windowsill. All his children and grandchildren had the chance to see him and say goodbye within the previous 3 days.

He was born in Gresham, Oregon, in 1927, and grew up on the family farm, so his formative years were during the Great Depression and WWII. He left home relatively early, a strapping and handsome blond man of about 6’2″. I don’t get the impression he had a particularly happy childhood, being big and smart, but what would likely today be called “on the spectrum.” At the very least, he was socially awkward, and his parents not particularly warm and loving. He did the best he could raising his four kids, but was blessed to have my mom by his side, and he provided well enough so we never went hungry; I realized much later in life that the reason he didn’t teach us much about how the world worked is that he really didn’t know. He was smart, and didn’t have a mean bone in his body, but he was uncomfortable with kids and many things social. I think he hoped that by teaching what he could, and giving us opportunities to learn and not putting to many restrictions on us, we could figure things out on our own. I guess we did, well enough, after all was said and done, but I’d not say it is always the optimal approach to child-rearing.

He was drafted into the Army during the Korean war, though he was never deployed overseas because he was color-blind. He was trained as infantry until shortly before leaving basic training, until someone higher up realized that there had been a big goof, and everyone in his training company was a non-deployable profile of some sort, so they all got quietly reassigned to various simple jobs state-side. He was sent to be an orderly at a VA psych ward to help with disturbed / PTSD vets. I have a hard time imagining a worse assignment for someone as sensitive as he was outside a hot war zone.

In his (much) younger days, he gave being a math teacher a shot. It was not a good fit, but on the plus side he was set up on a blind date with a young woman who was also a single teacher there at his school in Oregon, whom he later married. Apparently, he figured social things well enough to have four kids, myself and my three older siblings, and stay married for well over a half-century.

Leaving teaching, he was a computer programmer. This took him to California, where I and one of my brothers were born, and then to Alaska when I was about 2, where we all grew up. My brothers still (mostly) live there, though my sister lives near me in the greater Seattle area, which is were Mom and dad had been for the last ~half-dozen years.

An avid outdoorsman, he hiked a lot, encouraged us in hunting, had a commercial salmon trawler for a few years that me and my brother spent several summers working on.

My oldest brother is putting together a long obit, a joint item about both mom and dad, as they spent far more years together than they did apart. When that gets written up, I’ll post it here or add a link.

Until we meet in heaven, pops….

Myself, dad, and mom.

My older two brothers with Mom and Dad in Juneau.

Dad, reading in their last Juneau residence, a downtown apartment.

Dad on a walk near my home, just a couple of years ago.

Dad(top center) and his parents, with younger brother:

My sister Su, and dad’s younger brother, Ray.

Family at Easter, including dad’s grandkids:

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