John Nielson – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Oct. 18, 1939 - Aug. 23, 2020

John William Marcus Nielson of Santa Fe, New Mexico, age 80, died in his sleep at the Santa Fe home of his daughter Krista Zappe on Sunday, Aug.  23, 2020.
He was born to John and Gertrude May (Walker) Nielson on Oct. 18, 1939, in Mitchell, South Dakota, and attended public schools in Mitchell, White Lake, and Brookings, graduating from Brookings High School in 1957. He married Betty VandenBerg in Brookings on Aug. 14, 1958, and they had one daughter, Krista May. He graduated from South Dakota State University in Brookings in 1963 with a BS in Electrical Engineering.
In 1963, John moved his family to Albuquerque, New Mexico and began his career with Sandia National Laboratories, where he was able to earn an MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of New Mexico in 1965. The bulk of his professional career was spent with Sandia, involved with test equipment design in both the Albuquerque and Livermore, California locations, before retiring from them in 1999.
He occasionally left Sandia to pursue other opportunities, most notably a 3-year stint from 1979 to 1983 running a fireplace and chimney sweep business in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with his son-in-law Lorenzo Ortega. After his retirement, John and Betty made their home at Lake Poinsett, South Dakota, wintering in Santa Fe with their daughter and her family.
John was an avid outdoorsman his entire life and loved to hunt and fish. As a teenager in Brookings, John would take his rifle to school so that he could hunt on his way home.
He was a particularly good shot when it came to ducks, geese, and pheasant.
He also hunted deer in the East River area and antelope in the West River area north of Belle Fourche. John loved fishing for walleye in Lake Poinsett from his dock, and he relished special trips with his family and friends to Devils Lake in North Dakota. While living in New Mexico, his favorite fishing spots were Elephant Butte Reservoir and Heron Lake. He passed down his love of the outdoors and for fishing and hunting to his daughter and grandsons as part of his legacy.
John was a longtime member of the National Rifle Association and Ducks Unlimited. He was a volunteer board member on the Lake Poinsett Water Project District from 2007 until he moved back to New Mexico in 2013.
He was preceded in death by his father, who died in 1951, his mother, who died in 1957, and one brother who died in infancy in 1938.
He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Betty Nielson; his daughter, Krista Zappe and her husband Steve; two grandsons, Estevan “Stev” Ortega and Nicolas “Nico” Ortega, both of Santa Fe; three great-grandsons, Nicolas, Cruz, and Camilo Ortega, by Nico’s wife Adriana (Spencer) Ortega; his sister-in-law, Judy (VandenBerg) Messerschmidt and her husband Loyal of Sioux Falls; and numerous nieces and nephews.
We are confident that through his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord, John has received the goal of his faith, the salvation of his soul.
No memorial service is planned. The family will spread his ashes at some of his favorite places at a future date.


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