Cover photo for James Robert "Jim" Nelson's Obituary
James Robert "Jim" Nelson Profile Photo

James Robert "Jim" Nelson

May 9, 1946 — June 3, 2020

James Robert “Jim” Nelson, age 74 of Nashotah, Wisconsin, died at home due to heart complications the morning of Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020. His passing was swift and unexpected in the midst of a life well lived.

Jim was born on May 9, 1946 in Waukesha to Wayne and Genevieve (Geason) Nelson of Hartland, Wisconsin.

Jim was a husband, father, Vietnam War veteran, volunteer firefighter, outdoorsman, and pillar of the community. He saved lives, both as a soldier and as a first responder. He was a builder. He built up others with kind words. He built community through civic involvement. He built relationships with love and patience. He built homes with skill and hard labor.

Jim was a people person, known for his character, work ethic, and good humor. He was the sort of genuinely friendly person who “never met a stranger.” He made new friends feel like old friends. Jim was patient and open-minded; he would bridge different points of view and respect wide ranges of opinions, always focusing on the best in folks. His kindness made all feel welcome. He told everyone “You’re my favorite…” and he meant it every time. A gifted storyteller, Jim had an infectious twinkle in the eye, bringing smiles whenever he could. He had a good word for everyone and lent a hand whenever he could.

Sayings he lived by include:

Treat others as you would want to be treated.
Words are like toothpaste; once they come out, they are hard to put back in.
It’s better to say, “I’m glad I did” rather than “I wish I had.”
Be nice or go home.
Keep paddling, no matter what!

Early Years

Jim, known as “Jimmy,” in his youth, grew up in Hartland, Wisconsin. His parents instilled in him a love of family and community that continued to his dying day. He and his six siblings remained lifelong best friends. He described memories of a time when you could have your pet goat pull you in a wagon down the sidewalks, or ask a local vet how much it would cost to “de-smell” a skunk. Ice cream was a nickel. At Arrowhead High School, he excelled in track.

He attended Stout State University in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and studied industrial technologies. He was a secretary and president of the Chi Lambda Fraternity. He earned the Medallion award (the highest honor at the university) and also was listed in Who's Who in American College Universities when he graduated in May,1968.

He married his high school sweetheart, Barb, the following month, June 15, 1968, at the Catholic Church in Monches, Wisconsin. They had been accepted into the Peace Corps. However, he was drafted into the military instead.


Jim served honorably as a US Army infantryman, inducted in August of 1968. He served in Vietnam from 1969—1970. He was enrolled as a private and quickly rose in rank to a Sergeant, E6. Jim was a squad leader with Company B, Second Battalion, 47th Infantry of the 9th Infantry Division deployed south of Saigon in the Mekong Delta. He was awarded over a dozen commendations, including:

The Bronze Star
Purple Heart
Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device and One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Combat Infantry Badge
Valorous Unit Award
Vietnam Service Medal with Three Bronze Service Stars
among others.

Jim privately suffered with PTSD for over 40 years. Despite his inner turmoil, he was a pillar to others and made the world a better place. In 2011, he bravely sought help at the Milwaukee Veteran’s Administration. He appreciated the difference their assistance made in his life, as well as the respect they provided. We recognize the counselors at the Veteran's Center with tremendous gratitude. As a result of their care, Jim was able to enjoy some of the happiest years of his life.


An avid outdoorsman, Jim enjoyed hunting, fishing, and canoeing with family and friends. He lived each day in gratitude for the natural beauty of his native Wisconsin. He looked forward to the annual week-long canoe trips with his sons, son-in-law, and other relatives. Deer hunting was a big part of his life; he treasured getaways to the cabin with his hunting buddies. Other times it was just him and his dog ambling through the nearby fields and woods. Over the years, Jim always had a faithful hunting dog at his side, most recently, Jordy. In 2014, “Grandpa One Shot” fell a bison in North Dakota with a single bullet. Ever industrious, he crafted several cedar-strip canoes, and kept chickens, gardens and a beautiful yard. In the winter he enjoyed reading near his well-stoked, zillion degree wood stove, with butter pecan ice cream or a nightly bowl of popcorn (or both).


Jim taught wood shop classes at Arrowhead High School 1971—1978. He was also the assistant track coach. In 1973, Jim earned a Degree in Bachelor of Science with a major in Industrial Education. In 1977, he was voted Educator of the Year. Decades later, former students would continue to express the positive impact he had on their lives.


For the next 42 years, Jim worked as builder and general contractor with his company James R. Nelson Remodeling. He also owned Plank Road Cabinetry in Nashotah from 2002—2010. Jim's craftsmanship can be seen in homes and businesses throughout the Lake Country area. He was proud to work alongside his sons teaching them the trade. Over the years, he worked with countless employees, subcontractors, and craftsmen. He was always happy to mentor and support others as they branched off into their own ventures.

Volunteer Fire Department

Always of service to others, Jim was a volunteer fireman for 33 years. He began with the Nashotah Fire Department in 1976. He served as a firefighter, first responder and as 1st Assistant Chief. Jim continued to volunteer after the Nashotah Fire Department merged into Lake Country Fire & Rescue. He retired in 2009. The camaraderie with his fellow fireman family was a dear part of his life. As in the Vietnam War, where he risked his life for his country, he continued to risk his life for his community. Any time of day or night, he would hear the call, drop what he was doing, and rush to the aid of others.


Jim is survived by his beloved wife of over 51 years, Barbara Ann (Jung) Nelson.

Devoted Father to James Robert “Rob” Nelson II (wife Dana, step-children Heather, Kristen, Nicolette, Josef), Wayne Michael Nelson, John David Nelson (wife Autumn and daughters Grace and Vivienne), Benjamin Joseph Nelson (wife Kristin and daughter Sophia), Amy Elizabeth Franczak (husband Fred) and Andrew Shepherd Nelson.

Beloved Brother to David Charles Nelson (Judy), Kathryn Elizabeth (Terrance) Farmer, Roberta Ann (Steven) Fullington, Christine Marie (Michael) Vause, Nancy Elaine (Michael) Alstad, Kenneth Arthur (Susan) Nelson.

He is also survived by brother-in-law John Jung Jr., cousins Cecilia Farran, John Geason and Janet Niles, as well as cherished nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, and other in-laws.

Preceded in death by his parents Wayne and Genevieve (Geason) Nelson, and also his cousins Joe Geason, Warren Niles and Barbara Niles.

Jim was a living hero.
We will always carry his memory in our hearts.

A Celebration of Life Memorial service is planned for Saturday, September 12, 2020
at Evert-Luko Funeral Home beginning at 1:00 PM with a Time of Remembrance including Full Military Honors at 3:00 PM . Visiting will continue with refreshments across the street at the Hartland American Legion Flanagan Dorn Post 294. The following day, in a private ceremony, his ashes will be spread at his favorite spot overlooking a peaceful lake.

Jim’s Celebration of Life will be live streamed. To view the live stream, please click the link below:

As an expression of sympathy, in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions to the family are appreciated.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of James Robert "Jim" Nelson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Saturday, September 12, 2020

1:00 - 3:00 pm (Central time)

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Additional visiting with refreshments will continue at the Hartland American Legion.

*Standard text messaging rates apply.


Saturday, September 12, 2020

3:00 - 3:30 pm (Central time)

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Watch Livestream

A Time of Remembrance including Full Military Honors

*Standard text messaging rates apply.



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