nelson-james-militaryVeteran-IntroJames R. Nelson, 95, of Jackson passed away Sunday, September 11, 2016, at The Cape Girardeau Veteran’s Home.

Jim was born July 27, 1921 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He married Evelyn in February 1943. Together, they enjoyed 73 years of marriage. They are members of New McKendree United Methodist Church in Jackson. He loved hunting and fishing with his family.  He made sure that all of his children and grandchildren enjoyed and respected the outdoors as much as he did.

Jim was a graduate of Monticello High School, Monticello, MO.  Jim and Evelyn moved to Jackson, Missouri in 1950 and called it their home.  Loving survivors include his wife, Evelyn Nelson and two children, Janet (David) Ludwig, Jackson, Missouri, and James Kent (Jean) Nelson, St. Mary, Missouri.  Two grandchildren, Tracy (Ty) Metzger, Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and Jason (Amanda) Ludwig, St. Peters, Missouri. Five great-grandchildren, Gabe Metzger, Gracie Metzger, Mallorie Metzger, Mollie Metzger, and Holden Ludwig.

James enlisted June 2, 1942 in the Army-Air Corps and served in World War II. In 1943, Jim was called to active duty. In May 1943, he attended Preflight School and Air Force Ground School.  August 4, 1944 Jim was commission First Lieutenant Air Force, became a pilot, and received his Air Force Wings. He became a pilot instructor for B25 airplanes and Instrument Instructor of B25 airplanes. In August 1945, He transferred to Corpus Christie, Texas for PBY Naval Training School and received his Navy Wings. He was one of the few Air Force pilots that was selected to teach the Navy pilots how to fly airplanes. In Okinawa, he flew Air Sea Rescues—Reconnaissance missions. In August 1947, Jim received an Honorable Discharge from the Air Force with the rank of Captain. If he had stayed in the Air Force he would have been promoted to Major. He remained in the Air Force Reserve until 1951 when he resigned his commission. Jim was very modest and humble about his service to the United States but was very proud to have served his country.  He was a true patriot from The Greatest Generation.

In 1947, James received a Bachelor Degree in Education from Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri. In 1951, he received a Master of Arts in Arts in Administration from Missouri University, Columbia, Missouri. From 1951-1962 Jim was in instructor at Jackson High School where he taught, Industrial Arts, Driver Education, Mechanical Drawing, Marketing, and Coordinator of the Diversified Education Program. From 1963-1986, James was Principal of the Jackson High School.  While he served as Principal: he was instrumental in establishing girls basketball and girls track, he had a decisive hand in the formulation of curriculum, he served as principal 23 years and signed over 5,000 diplomas, he established foreign student exchange program with the Rotary Club, and established the JHS local Scholarship program awarded to Jackson High School Seniors at commencement. Mr. Nelson’s best legacy was his open door and ethical policies established during his tenure. Mr. Nelson had touched and shaped Jackson’s youth for many years.

The American Legion Post 158 of Jackson was an important element in his life. He served as Commander of Post 158 in 1996. He was a member of the Honor Guard and Past Commanders Club.  As Commander, he established and completed a set of by-laws for American Legion Post 158 of Jackson. These by-laws are effective and complete for today’s operations and standards. Jim set up and volunteered public bingo with American Legion Post 158 of Jackson as a fundraiser for general funds of operations.  He established American Legion Post 158 Scholarships to be awarded to Jackson High school graduating seniors at graduation ceremony. Jim coordinated and advised talent shows for Jackson Homecomers which were sponsored by American Legion Post 158 of Jackson. He served on the Executive Board through the growth of the post. He was the Historian and kept newspapers articles relating to American Legion Post 158 of Jackson accomplishments. He took photographs at all events and submitted items to the newspapers for publication. . He received the American Legion Meritorious Service Award in 2010.

James became involved in community service by serving as manager of the Jackson Swimming Pool from 1956-1967.  At the Jackson Swimming Pool, he developed and implemented the current swim lesson program and awarding completed swimmers with instruction cards. He also developed and implemented a policy for life guard training and swim instructor training.

Jim was a member of Jackson Planning and Zoning Committee and Board of Adjustments. He was a Past Rotarian. He held membership in Missouri Historical Society, Jackson Heritage Association (Education Award 1998), Amateur Radio Club of Southeast Missourian, and numerous education associations, where he served as Chairman of the Southeast Principals Association. He received the R. A. Fulenwider Meritorious Community Service Award in 1999 from the Chamber of Commerce.

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at Chapel B of McCombs Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Jackson. An American Legion Service will be held at 6 p.m.

The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at the funeral home with Rev. Jimmie Corbin officiating.

Burial will be at Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson with military honors.

Expressions of sympathy may be made to James Nelson, Memorial and Scholarship Fund (Jackson R-2 Foundation) and the Missouri State Veterans Home in Cape Girardeau.

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  1. Becky Miller Aubuchon

    My deepest sympathy goes out to the Nelson Family. Mr. Nelson was a wonderful person and principal, a fitting icon to JHS. He was also a caring principal as well as a prankster! I’ll never forget the taped down commencement programs in our seats at graduation. He got a real chuckle out of watching nervous seniors trying to pick those up. He was the BEST and always remembered my name!!! I will truly miss him.

  2. Willie Cheatham

    RIP, Mr. Nelson and I am proud to have had you as my principal at Jackson High School you will be missed. I also glad that I got to see him at the VA a few months ago. My condolences to the family and have all in my prayers.

    Willie (Wilma Cotner) Cheatham
    Murphysboro, IL.

  3. Kent, so sorry to hear about the passing of your Dad. May he rest at ease……May you find some peace. ll my best Lawrence.

  4. Peggy Sneller

    Deepest sympathy to the Nelson family. One of my most favorite people ever is Mr. Nelson! He had so many ways of making me feel really special and important and encouraged me in my college pursuits. There will always be a special place in my heart for Mr. Nelson!

    Peggy Myers Sneller
    JHS Class of ’63

  5. Alice Hodges

    So very sorry for your loss. He was a wonderful person and principal

  6. Russ Moore

    I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Nelson’s passing. I was one of his students during his role as principal at JHS. He truly was a great man. I remember him with kindness and a sense of humor. Blessings to his family at this time.

  7. Robert Lewis, MD

    He was my industrial arts teacher in 1953 and I have never forgotten that association. He always sought his students out in later years and his memory of associated events was remarkedly clear. I am remembering him as a kind and gentle unassuming man. He leaves many memories in the area and will surely be missed. My condolences to the family. JHS 1953

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