James E. Nelson

James Earl Nelson was born March 14, 1932, in Grafton, ND, the son of Peter and Theresa (Kelly) Nelson. Jim grew up in St. Thomas, ND, the youngest of nine children. He was an excellent athlete and star of the St. Thomas High School basketball team. He attended North Dakota State School of Science studying electrical technology. After his first year of college, he was drafted and served in the US Army during the Korean War stationed in Korea and Japan. When he returned home, he completed his electrical training and began his career with Moorhead Public Service in 1956. He worked at the Water Treatment Plant and the Power Plant. Jim was a jack of all trades, earning him the reputation of being “Mr. Fixit.”

Jim married Philomena (Phil) Varriano on June 18, 1960, at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Dilworth, MN. They made their home in Moorhead, where they raised four children – two girls and two boys.

Jim retired from MPS after 33 years of service. He was a very active retiree – working on his cabin on Lake Lida, fishing, gardening, and fixing anything and everything for his sisters, other family members, and friends. Jim loved to visit and tell stories with anyone who would listen. He enjoyed having coffee and telling jokes with other old guys. Jim had a keen sense of humor and flirted with waitresses at the cafe and cashiers at the grocery store. He was a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, American Legion, and the VFW. In 2016, Jim traveled to Washington, DC, on the Honor Flight with many other Veterans of WWII and the Korean War. Jim cherished that experience.

Jim was a man of faith – he loved the Lord and was a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. He always made time for his kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews. He especially loved babies, holding them and bouncing them on his knee.

Jim is survived by his wife of 60 years, Phil; his children; Lisa (Brad) Borgen; Jim (Sherry) Nelson and Joe (Kathy) Nelson; son-in-law, Jim Snyder; nine grandchildren – Chris (Jackie) Snyder, Kate (Chad) Hingst, Michael, Isaac and Jaidyn Borgen, Cecelia (Ryan) Schmidt, Emily, Isabel, and Anthony Nelson, and five great-grandchildren. Jim was preceded in death by his daughter, Jane Nelson Snyder; his parents, seven sisters, and one brother.

The family would like to thank Hospice of the Red River Valley, Home Instead and the staff at Lilac Home in Dilworth, MN for the compassionate care they gave to Jim in his last days.

Visitation will be held Monday, August 31, from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., followed by a prayer service at 7:00 p.m., at Wright Funeral Home, Moorhead.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held Tuesday, September 1, at 11:00 a.m., at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Moorhead.

Interment will be at St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Moorhead.

Both services will follow all Minnesota COVID-19 guidelines – social distancing and masks are required.

Video tribute and online guestbook at

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