Born in Wheatland, Wyo., on April 19, 1923, James Alexander Neilson, Jr., took his last breath April 1 at home north of Wellington.
His father, James A. Neilson, Sr., taught agricultural sciences, and his mother, Maude Lillian Fobes Nicholas Neilson, taught English at Wheatland High School. At age 5, his family moved to California, eventually purchasing and developing a farm in Sutter County in the Sacramento Valley.
Jim graduated from Sutter High School, where he played basketball and was active in Future Farmers of America. In 1947, he received a bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was president of Cal Club. He earned a master’s degree in plant science in 1961 from the University of California-Davis and his Ph.D. in plant ecology in 1964. Upon his father’s accidental death in 1947, he returned to the family farm, managing it for the next 15 years while pursuing his graduate degrees. Jim also pursued his interest in Boy Scouts, forming and leading a troop in Sutter County for many years.
After a brief time at Wilberforce University and Antioch College, both in Ohio, and a year writing in Vancouver, Wash., he took the family back to California. An assistant research ecologist for the Institute of Ecology for 3 years, he inventoried vegetation and did research on revegetation in the Lake Tahoe basin. In 1969, he founded Ecoview Environmental Consultants, writing some of the earliest Environmental Impact Reports in the State of California, focusing on geothermal resources in Lake and Sonoma counties.
Jim moved his second family to Colorado in 1985, retiring on a 10-acre farm to raise sheep, goats and poultry. He was Clan Mackay commissioner for 12 years. Also an artist and craftsman, he produced oil paintings, wood carvings and sculpture.
He leaves behind his wife, Dianne McQuaid and eight children: Jana Knezovich (John), Laura Watson (Ken), Heather Westlund (Bruce), Bruce Neilson (Sheri), Ian Neilson, Linn Neilson (Chelsea), Alex Neilson, and Kat Neilson; his sister, Jean Heflin; 10 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a niece and nephew. He was predeceased by his parents and his first wife, Georgiana Gamble.
A celebration of life service was held April 20 at the Neilson’s Farm in Wellington.
Memorial contributions may be made to the University of California, Davis Campus, Herbarium, in care of Allnutt Funeral Service, 650 W. Drake Road, Fort Collins, Colorado 80526.
Please visit www.allnutt.com to view Jim’s online obituary and send a message of condolence to the family.