Topic publisher Jim Nelson dies after cancer battle
A celebration of life for Jim Nelson, 67, of Timber Lake, was held Monday, Oct. 7, 2013, at the Timber Lake School Gym with Pastor Bryce Schaffer of New Hope Church of Timber Lake officiating.
James Frederick Nelson was born June 27, 1946, at Lemmon to Fred and Emma (Sittner) Nelson. He passed away in Mobridge on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, less than three months after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
Jim grew up with his parents and younger brother on a small farm west of Watauga, in Corson County, and at Chance, in Perkins County. His parents taught rural schools and sometimes were his teachers. Jim became a lifelong advocate of country schools. He graduated from Lemmon High School in 1964.
He married Kathy Snyder of Iroquois on June 9, 1969, in Aberdeen, where they had met while attending Northern State College. He graduated from Northern in 1969 with a major in arts/drafting and minors in history and math. He taught at Washington High School in Sioux Falls, and in Douglas, Ariz., Tabor, Gayville-Volin, Crystal City, Texas, and Geddes.
In 1977, Jim and Kathy moved to Wall, where he was employed as a carpenter with Estes Brothers Construction for three years.
In 1980, they bought the Timber Lake Topic. The small town, farm and ranch country, and the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Reservations provided a rich environment of history, politics and community.
He was co-editor of the 75th jubilee book, Timber Lake and Area 1910-1985, and a major contributor to the centennial book, Timber Lake and Area 1910-2010.
With Helen Ross, Bill Alley and others, he developed the Timber Lake and Area Museums’ fossil collection and contributed to research on the ammonites of the Fox Hills Formation and the dinosaurs of the Hell Creek Formation. He helped build a network of paleontology scientists and students. One of his last contributions was to gather some of those people together for a planning meeting in August of 2013 to ensure that the museum’s paleontology work continues.
He researched and wrote history for the Historical Society Newsletter, the Topic and other publications on a wide range of subjects, including the Great Depression, the Fur Trade era and the Germans from Russia. He was a frequent contributor at history conferences and gatherings. He collected and shared family genealogy, stories and photos for many Timber Lake area families for his Sittner and Nelson relatives.
He was never happier than when he was in the field digging fossils or talking to someone about local history, but he also enjoyed carpentry, high school sports and a wide variety of music.
Jim served on the fundraising committee for the South Dakota Heritage Center in Pierre and the South Dakota Hall of Fame Board and was a member of the South Dakota Historical Society and the South Dakota Newspaper Association. He was an active member of the Timber Lake Rodeo Association.
Those who spent time with him in the few weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his death expressed admiration for his courage and grace.
He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Kathy Nelson of Timber Lake; a brother, Wilfred Nelson of Las Vegas, Nev.; his mother-in-law, Velma Leichtenberg of Iroquois; three brothers-in-law, Bob (Diana) Leichtenberg of De Smet, Scott Leichtenberg of Sioux Falls and Steve (Donna) Leichtenberg of Iroquois; newphews, Brandon, Jay (Misty) and Kendall Leichtenberg; a niece, April Leichtenberg; and many Sittner and Nelson cousins, including Dorothy Rabenberg and Norman Frey of Mobridge; and many, many friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Emma Nelson, and his father-in-law, Robert Leichtenberg.
Kesling Funeral Home of Mobridge was entrusted with the arrangements.