Dr. John W. (Jack) Neilson

Dr. John W. (Jack) Neilson passed away peacefully in Vernon, February 25, 2005. Jack was born in Saskatoon on February 13, 1918, the cherished only child of the late Dean James and Mrs. Hattie Neilson. A loyal Saskatchewan native throughout his life, he left that province to pursue dental training at the University of Alberta, graduating with his D.D.S. in 1941. He enlisted in the Canadian Dental Corps, and served overseas from 1942-45. On his return, he obtained a Masters degree in Peridontology from the University of Michigan. In 1947, he married Beth Sovereign, and was welcomed in the Sovereign/Ellison clan. Jack and Beth initially lived in Edmonton, where Jack pursued a career in dental education and dental practice as a faculty member of the Dental School at the University of Alberta. In 1953, the family moved to Seattle, where Jack joined the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Washington. In 1957 he was recruited by the University of Manitoba to be the first Dean of its newly established Faculty of Dentistry in Winnipeg. He held that position for twenty years, overseeing the construction and the operation of the dental school, which is referred to by his early students as “the house that Jack built”. After stepping down as Dean, he remained on the faculty until his retirement in 1983. Jack’s career in dentistry was recognized both nationally and internationally, in various offices he held and awards he received. While he was honoured by these, nothing in his professional career brought him as much pleasure as the lasting friendships he formed with his students and dental colleagues across the country. Jack’s compassion for others was reflected in his commitment to community service. In Winnipeg, he continued his long association with the Rotary Club, serving as President in 1970-71. He was also a director of the Children’s Aid Society, the Knowles School for Boys, and Meals on Wheels. His enjoyment of sports was reflected in his membership in St. Charles Golf and Country Club, and the Winnipeg Winter Club. On retirement, Jack and Beth moved to Vernon, B.C. There, Jack’s gregarious nature and diversity of interests provided an active retirement and new and valued friendships. He served as a member of the Board of the United Way, and was a director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Okanagan Symphony, and the Vernon and District Home Support Society. He was also a member of the Vernon Golf Club and the Vernon Curling Club. The Rotary Club remained a focus of his community life. He was a member for 58 years, and his last evening was spent in the company of good friends at a Rotary Club function. Jack was a proud and supportive husband, father, grandfather, and friend. He is survived by his wife, Beth; his three children and their partners, Kathy (Bill) of Vancouver, John (Pat) of Vernon, and Barbara (Jim) of Revelstoke; his four grand-daughters, Christine, Monica, Riley and Ellie; and his extended family and many friends. The funeral service will be held on Thursday, March 3, 2005 at 2 p.m. at All Saints Anglican Church, 3205-27th Street, Vernon, B.C. In lieu of flowers the family would be grateful for donations in Jack’s memory to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 3100-28th Avenue, Vernon, B.C. V1T 1X8, or to the Rotary Club of your choice. Arrangements are in the care of Vernon Funeral Home (250) 542-0155.