John Burton ‘Burt’ Nelson

December 22, 1921December 22, 2013
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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 American Cancer Society at


  • Visitation Friday, December 27, 2013
  • Funeral Service Saturday, December 28, 2013

John Burton ‘Burt’ Nelson

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Paula & Rich Crossman

January 7, 2014

It has been our pleasure to have been acquainted with John Nelson, both as a good neighbor and a close friend. We will really miss him around here. Our sincere sympathy to Louise and all other family members. Our loss of John on Earth is definitely Heaven's gain.

Durward Bolding

December 28, 2013

Louise & family, We were so sorry to hear of John's passing...But we know he is in a better place...And getting organized for us all to join him...What a guy! ...We have many fond memories! God Bless Y'all! Durward & Shari Bolding

December 27, 2013

A really great gentleman, always ready with a smile and laught. I have one of his wood pieces that sit on my desk. Thanks John for all the things you did for ASMGA. We miss you.

Tom Chick ASMGA

Jack Monahan

December 27, 2013

John was also a good "bridge" player. We met at the Arlington Senior Center. He asked if I played golf and then signed me up to play with the Arlington seniors. He was a smart, funny, "witty" guy and I enjoyed his company.

Doris Heikkinen

December 27, 2013

We have lost a real gem. We have our remembrances of our good times together. Especially when the six of us went camping....John, Ed and Bill golfing together while you, Gwen and I walking in the woods or shopping. My sympathy to you and your family.

Michelle Lee

December 27, 2013

Never take a moment for granted with a love one, because what could be done or said today may not be able to be done in the tomorrows. I was glad to be blessed with one more moment.

My sweet Grandfather, Papa John, went to be with our Heavenly Father on Sunday,his 92nd Birthday. I just want to share with you for amoment of the legacy he passed down to me.

Married to his wife for over 60 yrs. He was amazing husband who showed honor, respected and much love for his wife. A Father who raised two good sons who are phenomenal husbands and fathers.

He helped to fill my life with encouragement, love and laugher. The time he invested in me will always be some of my most cherished memories. Through family canoe trips and amazing hikes, I learned to love adventure. Zoo trips, picnics and summer fun at the Elks club made for many fond memories. Sunday dinners, singing around the organ and games on the living room floor were where many laughs and shared moments took placed. I loved being in his wood shop. I was always amazed at his latest creations. He helped me begin my love of photography with my first real camera. He had a part in who I am today. I will forever be greatful for events he shared in with me from graduations, triumphs in life, births of my children and my funny moments of raising my boys. I know he took pride and joy in in all our lives because he always had a smile and uplifting words. I was blessed to be called his granddaughter and proud to say I am. There will truely be a void in my life with out him here, but he left me with a legacy to follow. I love you, Papa John and thank you for loving me.

December 26, 2013

A great friend and golfer.

Arlington Senior Men's Golf Association

Kenneth Hassenplug Jr

December 26, 2013

My heart goes out to all of you during your time of loss. I remember John and Louise going for motorcycle rides and how they allowed Steve to show me how to ride one when they were living on the reservation in Lewisburg. Lots of good memories during that time.

Shirley Hodson-May

December 26, 2013

John & Louise the epitome of a beautiful married couple. I met them thru my daughter Kathy.
I spent many times at the beauty shop visiting them when John took Louise. I always loved visiting with them. They attended my birthday party in March & I received a beautiful plaque he made me with my name. I treasure it so much.
My heart goes out to you & your family Louise at this time.
Please remember how much we all love you & will keep you in our prayers. ??

December 26, 2013

John Nelson was A Gentleman's Gentleman.
One of the finest people that my wife, Peggy and I have ever known.
Our home is graced with many wood carvings made by John.
God now has an expert to teach woodworking classes in Heaven.
Our sympathies to Louise and the Boys.

Richard and Peggy Lenz