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James W Nielson Jr

Portland, Oregon

June 4, 2011

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
88 Navy Lt

USS Block Island


Memorial Service Snapshots, Click photo below:

June 18, 2011

James W. Nielson Jr.
December 19, 1922 - June 4, 2011
James was born on December 19, 1922 in Valley City, North Dakota. He was the first of four children born to James and Esther Nielson. Jim spent his childhood hunting, playing hockey on frozen ponds, learning the trombone, and earning merit badges culminating in the rank of Eagle Scout with two palms.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and served on aircraft carriers during World War II. His first post was on the USS Randolph. He finished his service to his country on the USS Block Island at rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. Upon his honorable discharge from the service, he attended Valley City State Teachers College studying Business, Chemistry, and Music, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business.

Jim’s illustrious wholesale drug career began as a traveling salesman for Rexall Drug in 1949. He developed his trademark customer service while traveling countless miles, carrying not only Rexall samples, but also all his worldly possessions. In 1954, he took his business acumen to Mutual Wholesale Drug as General Manager. After ultimately becoming President of that company, he went back to his first love, sales, for Wilsey Drug as an Account Manager in 1979. Wilsey Drug was eventually purchased by Bergen Brunswig Drug Company, where Jim’s success continued to flourish. He received his highest accolade as Bergen Brunswig’s 1983 Salesman of the Year. That award was one of many during his 46 year career. He retired from Bergen in 1995.

Over the years, he often stated he wasn’t “working with customers”, he was “calling on a friend”. That mentality served him well in all aspects of his life. He was a trusted man and mentor. He took particular interest in people who were new to the industry and strived to assist them in being as successful as they desired to be. He had a knack for knowing when to step in and offer a word of wisdom and when to step back and allow his friends to grow and blossom at their own pace.

While working for Rexall Drug, a friend made a passing comment, “have I got a girl for you.”. So began the courtship of Jim and Rita. Weekends were spent on the golf course and nights hitting the Portland hot spots. They were married on October 10th, 1953 at the Crystal Manor in Portland, Oregon. Their honeymoon was spent golfing their way from Portland to Chicago where Jim was heading up a key territory for Rexall Drug. Jim and Rita’s family soon expanded; first with their daughter, Kelley, then with their son, James III. Family vacations, projects around the house, and gatherings with friends filled photo albums with memories that Jim cherished to his final days. Ever the traditionalist, he made sure family heirloom decorations of hand blown beads from Scotland were on every Christmas tree from his first to his last. He was deeply devoted to his wife and children. With a lifetime of achievements to his name, none meant more to him than his family; viewing them as his most treasured.

As if his days were not busy enough, he joined several service organizations along the way. He aligned himself for nearly two decades with the Elk’s fraternal organization. In 1970, he joined the Royal Rosarian’s. He was quickly assigned to committees and then councils where he rose through the ranks, becoming Prime Minister in 1979. “Sutter’s Gold” is his rose. Summer weekends and holidays were filled traveling with the Rosarian’s to march in parades as well as hosting traveling dignitaries to the City of Roses. Jim also had a 60 year association with the Masons including Al Kader Shriners and Royal Order of Jesters. He volunteered his time as a driver for the Shriners Hospital for Children and lent his expertise to running fund raising golf outings. Giving back to people was a common thread throughout Jim’s life, whether through his mentoring or community service, striving to leave the world a better place than he entered it.


Born: December 19, 1922
Place of Birth: Valley City, North Dakota
Death: June 4, 2011
Place of Death: Portland, Oregon
Occupation: Retired Wholesale Drug Executive
Organizations: Royal Rosarians, Prime Minister 1979, Lents Lodge #156 AF&AM, Scottish Rite of Freemasonary S. J., Al Kader Shrine, Royal Order of Jesters, American Legion, Portland Rose Society, Military Officers Association of America

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