August 2, 1942 – December 13, 2018
Born to Grace (nee Spalding) and Medrick Nelson on Aug 2, 1942 at midnight, John always claimed two entire days for his birthday. Born in the Prince Rupert hospital, he was raised at the North Pacific Cannery by his grandparents, Na’a & Bubba after his mother passed away in his early years. He had countless fond memories of adventures from his days at the cannery. Later he and his siblings Lorna, Allan, Barb, Richard & Linda moved to Comox Avenue, to live with their Father. John went to Borden Street Elementary, then to “Boomy” Booth Memorial High where he was one of a handful of First Nations students to graduate in his year. Pa spent his many summers during his high school years fishing with his father and Uncle James Nelson of Kitkatla. Later in life he would return to fishing with his Uncle Jimmy for his love of it and to spend time in Tsm Lagan. To his last breath, he would recall the time he spent in Tsm Lagan, his family’s traditional harvesting grounds. Not a sockeye snob, Pa would eat and use any fish he could get his hands on.
After High school, Pa attended BCIT in Vancouver where he graduated with his full ticket in Carpentry, a career he would enjoy for 35+ years. His work took him all over BC, from mining work camps to hydro projects, you name it he built it. He also worked extensively in his home town of Prince Rupert. Many of the major building projects and infrastructure from the 1960’s to 1990’s in Prince Rupert were worked on by John. He was also called upon by his people in Kitsumkalum and Kitkatla to build homes in their villages. Throughout his career he was relied upon to build stairs, this became his specialty. If ever you notice you are walking up a great set of stairs in Rupert, it is likely Pa built them.
John had a lifelong commitment to exploring, learning and most of all having fun. In his early days, “Show Boat Nelson” played basketball with the “Tom Tom Five”. At age thirty, he married his lil’ sweetheart Eileen Sankey and became a father. At forty he learned to swim and at forty-two he taught himself how to carve in the traditional Tsimshian style. Pa was never an entrepreneur so most of his creations were gifts to friends and family. He also built his own boat, “the Three Brothers” with the help of close family and friends.
In his later years, Pa spent time smoking fish and taking walks with his sidekick Kermode the dog. Always social, he could be found making his rounds, chatting with friends and acquaintances. He had a special gift of making a connection with all he met.
Pa was a loving dedicated family man. He leaves behind his wife of forty- five years Eileen, his sons John Jr., William (Elizabeth) and Trevor. Ya’a also leaves behind his beloved grandson Mederic (William). John is survived by his sisters Lorna Wheeler, Barb Tait, as well many cousins, nieces, nephews and his lifelong friend Richard Crosby. John’s advice to his sons was always; “Be a good Indian”. So Pa, where ever you are, “Be a good Indian”. Recognizing the importance of the holidays and family, it was John’s wish to delay a Celebration of Life until Spring 2019 in Prince Rupert. Celebration of Life at Nisga’a Hall, Prince Rupert, B.C. Saturday March 16, 2019, 1-3:30 pm.