John Harold Nelson

John Harold Nelson


John H. Nelson passed away May 11 from complications of a worn out heart. He was born to pioneers of the Big Hole Valley, Harold and Mae Nelson, and was raised on a cattle ranch in Wisdom.

John was born Jan. 15, 1937, in Dillon. He graduated from Beaverhead County High School in 1955 and from Montana State University with a degree in Agricultural Education in 1961. He was the 1960 College National Finals Rodeo Champion Bareback Rider as well as co-captain of the rodeo team. He went on to win multiple state amateur championships. More importantly, he met the love of his life while rodeoing, a sport they enjoyed together for many years.

He married JoAnne Ruby Nett on July 7, 1960. Together they survived a lifetime of ups and downs and their union was one of the strongest God has ever created. From their love, devotion, and hard work, they raised three kids: twin boys, John Jay Nelson and Rohn Ray Nelson, and daughter Shonda Dee Nelson.

He valued a good education and touched numerous students’ lives during his 15-year Vocational Agriculture teaching career at Augusta High School. Upon his father’s passing, John moved his family to Wisdom, where he continued working the Lazy UH ranch until he died. His life’s passion was cattle and the beef industry. He was a true steward of God’s land and creatures and his healthy, well-fed animals were a tribute to that.

Material things were of no importance to him; he based his wealth on the strong relationships he had with his abundance of friends and family. He enjoyed hard work and valued people based on their work ethic. His strong, weathered hands were always busy, no matter the season. Along with his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his family, John also loved hunting and fishing. Some of his fondest memories are of times spent in hunting camps and catching fish out of mountain lakes.

John will be remembered for his infectious laughter, the sparkle in his eye when he told a good joke, his humbleness, generosity, honesty, unwavering integrity and willingness to open his home (and the Bible) for anyone who may need mentoring. He was a big man with an even bigger heart and he lived every day of his 77 years being true to himself. He will be dearly missed by his family and community.

John was preceded in death by his parents, Harold and Mae. He is survived by: his beloved wife of 54 years, JoAnne; sister Donna (Marlin) Gilman; children John (Kimberly), Rohn (Lori) and Shonda (Mike); as well as by grandchildren Timbra (Justin) Arendt, Tahra, Shayle, Colton, Cache, McCoy and Mikah.

A celebration of his life was held Monday afternoon, May 19, at the Wisdom Masonic Temple. A potluck reception followed committal services. Donations may be made to the local church or charity of your choice. A guestbook is available on-line at