Virtual Celebration of Jim's Life
Obituary of James Kristian Nielsen
March 29, 1934 - Lamont, Alberta
October 27, 2023 - Calgary, Alberta
James Kristian Nielsen, 89, of Calgary, Alberta passed away peacefully on October 27th, 2023.
Jim was born on March 29, 1934, to Edith and Sophus Nielsen in Lamont, Alberta, and the family soon moved to Calgary. In 1936 his brother Eric was born, and their brother Robert came along later in 1952. The early years were difficult for his family as was common in the 1930s, but Jim recalled a joyful childhood and had especially fond memories of his summers spent up north in Vermilion, Alberta.
Jim had many talents and interests. He played piano, was artistic, and loved gymnastics. As a young man, he was able to walk on his hands in the Stampede parade!
After graduating from Crescent Heights High School in Calgary, Jim went on to study Education at the University of Alberta, receiving his Masters degree. He celebrated by taking a trip to Europe. Jim then went to work as a teacher and guidance counsellor at Crescent Heights, Queen Elizabeth, and Lord Beaverbrook High Schools.
Jim met Christine Knight at a dance. Christine was mid-way through her adventure of emigrating from England, working in Toronto, working in Calgary, and she had even more adventures in mind! They married in 1959, bought a house in Brentwood, and went on to have four children, Jennifer, Alison, and twins Lisa and Sarah. Sadly, in 1971, Jim and Christine suffered the tragic loss of their eldest daughter Jennifer (10 years old) to leukemia.
Fatherhood was a natural role for Jim. He was fun-loving and playful. His daughters have fond memories of pestering him after dinner each day to do “tricks” which involved Jim flipping them upside down as well as having them balance standing on his hands. He also taught them to do rolls and handstands. Jim was full of funny stories. When his daughters begged him to tell a story from when he was a child, he would always begin with “When I was a little girl…”, laugh, and then recount one of his entertaining childhood escapades. Jim built a large playhouse and some gymnastics bars in the backyard. The neighbourhood children always wanted to come play at the Nielsen’s.
Working for the Calgary Board of Education enabled Jim to take the family to experience life in other places. A year (1969/70) was spent in San Diego, California while instructing at Mesa College. In 1975, Jim seized an incredible opportunity to take a sabbatical and creatively incorporated taking his family for a year of travel literally around the world. This included four months during which he studied at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, and another four months living in Sydney Australia. During this year the family visited another eighteen countries, as well as travelled within several of the countries.
Jim was a prolific letter writer until his later years; some years writing over a hundred letters to stay in touch with relatives, friends, and people he had met through his extensive travels. He highly respected and admired Christine’s family in England and considered them to be his family too. He maintained connections with The Mortenssons: Jeffery, Monica, and nieces and nephew Charlotte, Viveca and Harry, and The Knights: Douglas, Cecelia, and nephews Philip, and Christopher.
In 1984 Jim suffered another tragic loss when his wife Christine died of cancer at only 47 years old. He was devastated. Yet, life has a way of moving on. Soon his grandchildren arrived: Brett in 1989, Julia in 1990, and James in 1993. Jim was particularly close to Brett who lived with him from late 1990 to 2001.
Jim was also skilled at building and enjoyed carpentry work. He built a garage for Sarah, a garage for Alison, and helped Lisa with small projects at her house in Toronto.
After retiring, Jim continued to spend his time ballroom dancing, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, travelling, and enjoying his grandchildren. He greatly appreciated the companionship of his dear friend Jean Richards-Carter during this time. From his early 70s to early 80s, he made daily bicycle rides 10 km each way to downtown Calgary to meet Jean for coffee (which he had taken up drinking at the ripe old age of 80), returning back up a steep hill. He was also very interested in current events and was generous in supporting charities and politicians.
Jim remained very active into his early eighties and then began to be affected by strokes and dementia. His final years were spent in Cambridge Manor where he received warm and compassionate care. Throughout his declining years, Jim maintained his sense of humour and the staff often commented on his warm smile.
Jim is much loved and deeply missed by his surviving children Alison Wilson (Shayne Wilson), Lisa Kota (Peter Herrmann), and Sarah Nielsen. His grandchildren Brett Nielsen, Julia Kota (Tristan Syrett) and James Kota. Recently, Jim became a great grandfather to Logan James Syrett, who sadly will not meet him.
Jim was predeceased by his brothers Eric and Robert. However, he is survived by his sister-in-law Louise Nielsen, and nieces and nephew; Tara Rossiter (Marc), Sandra Nielsen (Don Palosaari), and Stephen Nielsen (Lana), sister-in-law Joy Nielsen, and niece Kate Nielsen, and their families.
In lieu of flowers, please think of Jim each time you show kindness and generosity to others.
A Virtual Celebration of Jim's Life can be joined via zoom:
Time: November 12, 2023 at 1:00 PM (MST)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 885 2814 2728
In living memory of James Kristian Nielsen, a tree will be planted in the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area by McInnis & Holloway Funeral Homes, Calgary Crematorium, 3219 – 4th Street NW, Calgary, AB, T2M 3A6, Telephone: 403-243-8200.