Mike Nilson, 73, Minot, passed away Saturday, March 8, 2014, at Trinity Hospital in Minot.
Michael Anthony Nilson was born March 9, 1940, the son of Mikal and Nora (Evanson) Nilson, in Harvey. He was raised and educated in Harvey until the age of 10. His family then relocated to the Minot area, where he was a Minot High School graduate, Class of 1958.
Mike enlisted in the Marine Corps on Oct. 29, 1958. He spent the majority of his enlistment in the South Pacific. He carried his patriotism and love of country throughout his life and would always remind you that "Once a Marine, always a Marine." He was the second of four generations of service to this country. He was honorably discharged Aug. 25, 1961.
Upon completion of his military service, he enrolled at Minot State University and became an active member of campus, serving on the yearbook committee, and most proudly, being a member a Mu Sigma Tau fraternity. He received a bachelor's degree in 1966.
Mike married Cecelia M. Brunner on Aug. 31, 1964, in Minot. They made their home in Minot. Mike began working for the Minot Park District as a lifeguard. He continued working there until 2000, when he retired as parks development officer. During his 35 years at the park, and as director of parks, he helped shape and develop the park system into what it is today. He was an avid supporter of the Minot trails system. He served as park police officer, zookeeper, and veterinary assistant. Many times he brought home baby animals for his wife and family to care for due to limited zoo staff. If not for his hard work and dedication, the Roosevelt Park Zoo would not be the community asset it is today. For many decades, Mike worked without using any vacation hours and often took bookwork home in the evening in order to complete the park's payroll. Mike's love for animals was incomparable. He was a founding member of the Greater Minot Zoological Society and served on the Minot Park Board after his retirement.
Mike was also very active in the community and was involved in a number of clubs and activities. He was a member of St. Leo's Catholic Church, a Cub Scout leader, a member of the Minot Exchange Club, Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, Minot American Legion Post #26, American Legion Drum and Bugle Corps, American Legion Color Guard, and the Minot Veterans of Foreign War Post #753. He was very active in the American Legion and was extremely proud to be a member of the Color Guard and to have the opportunity to serve at funerals and special events.
He was especially passionate about the Minot Commission on Aging. He started delivering Meals on Wheels at the program's inception and continued until present day. He could be found most days at 10 o'clock and 3 o'clock, having coffee and supervising the recent remodel of the Parker Senior Center. After retiring, Mike worked part time at Lowe's Garden Center in the spring and summer.
He was a loving father, grandfather and especially husband. He leaves behind a family that will miss him greatly, and a border collie with a broken heart.
His loving family includes: wife of 49 years, Cecelia, Minot; children, Michael J. (Susan) Nilson, Minot, Kenneth Nilson and his companion, James Goldrick, New York City, Christine (Bradley) Nelson, Minot, and Anthony (Monica) Nilson, Swansboro, N.C.; seven grandchildren, Emily, Matthew, and Jacob Nilson; Lauren and Beckett Nelson; and Cameron and Rylan Nilson; brother-in-law, Edward Kuhn, Minot; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
Mike was preceded in death by his parents; infant daughter, Debra; sisters, Phyllis Roble, Marvel Solberg and Norma Kuhn.
Mass of Christian Burial: Thursday, March 13, 2014, at 10:30 a.m., at St. Leo's Catholic Church, Minot.
Interment: Rosehill Memorial Park, Minot.
Visitation: Today, March 12, from 4 to 7 p.m., at Thompson-Larson Funeral Home, Minot.
Vigil prayer service: Today at 7 p.m. at the funeral home. Memorials: Are preferred to the Minot Commission on Aging Building Fund.
Those wishing to sign the online register and share memories may access the online obituaries section at (www.thompsonlarson.com).