John Nickelsen

John William Nickelsen

Saturday, April 11th, 2020
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John Nickelsen, devoted husband, principled father, and fair-minded businessman, passed away at his home in Carpinteria on April 11, 2020. He was 93.

John was born in Albert Lea Minnesota on Sept. 9, 1926, and grew up in Dubuque, Iowa. Parents Emmett and Florence, who were both in the military, raised him to have a strong work ethic which John passed on to his children. One of his first jobs was to deliver the local paper. Back then, the fee was collected on the route.

His family moved to California, where he graduated from San Rafael High School in 1944. He served in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps during World War II, and then studied entomology at UC Berkeley where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from the College of Agriculture.

Shortly after, he started Supervised Control Service, the first independent field checking service for farmers in California. The business began in Dos Palos and expanded to Shafter, where he served farmers of the Southern San Joaquin Valley for more than 50 years. His first account in the Valley was Blue Moon Ranch in Buttonwillow. In all, he served 95 growers and with more than 100,000 acres in Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties.

He was the also the founder of Insect Lore - which began in his home office on Oak Street in Shafter - obtaining the patent for caterpillar media, or food, for painted lady butterfly kits.

John was a founding member of the Association of Applied Insect Ecologies, and a member of the Entomological Society of America, and the Cal Alumni Association. He was named Cotton Consultant of the Year by the National Cotton Council and recognized by the Shafter Chamber of Commerce for outstanding contributions in agriculture. He also worked with 4-H youth, leading entomology projects.

He and his wife Virginia, who met in San Francisco, married on Treasure Island in 1956. They have four children - Dana Lessley (Ronald), Lance Nickelsen, Kara Anderson (Steven), and Nona Matthews (George) - and one grandchild, Scarlett Matthews.

He loved working in his vegetable garden and barbequing at backyard parties. He also enjoyed taking his family skiing at Mammoth Mountain and to the beach before the start of school in September.

In later years, John and Virginia enjoyed fun and quirky outings with a close group of friends of known as the Flat Tire Group. They retired in Carpinteria, where he continued his gardening and traveled to interesting places across the globe. He was a kind, gentle, honest man who loved his family deeply.

Starting his business out at ten cents an acre, he proved that an independent field checking business could be successful when guided by one simple philosophy: “Farmers demand good pest control; they want what is needed, when it is needed and nothing more.” Keep sweeping, John.
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Pat Wilson

Posted at 05:49pm
Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
The Gary Wilson Family

Nina Keeley

Posted at 06:35pm
I am sorry to learn of John's passing and send my sympathy to his family. My family has good memories of the Nickelsen family living down the street from us, working together with school functions and 4H (I think), and neighborhood children playing together. Paul, after retiring from a career in weed control, enjoyed sweeping fields for two summers for John. I still think of you when I pass your old home on Oak Street.

Nona Matthews Posted at 09:57pm

Thank you for your kind thoughts and memories, Nina. My sister Dana, was your daughter's age. I'm glad Paul was able to work with dad. I know dad appreciated the support of people like him, and so many others, during those hot, busy summers. Wishing you and your family good health and peace. Thanks again for leaving a note. Will pass on to mom. ~ Nona

Mark Lessley

Posted at 12:32am
Although our paths didn't cross often, I know John and I shared some of the same sunsets over the beaches in Carpinteria. His daughter Dana, my incredible Aunt, made the best dinners when I'd come stay with her and Ron over the summer as a teenager. Dana and Ron were also the first family to visit after my son, Liam, was born. They even built his crib for us. Our hearts are with you and your family.

Nona Matthews Posted at 12:08am

Thanks, Mark for this sentiment. It's a beautiful place, where you grew up and they spent many years after dad's retirement. Hope to see you and your family on the track or in the mountains very soon. Stay well!

Kara and Steven Anderson

Posted at 02:25pm
Our hearts are filled with warm memories of happy times spent together. My father taught me the value of hard work, honesty and humor. We enjoyed meeting up with him at different locations over the years, as he loved to travel and explore different cultures. He shared great stories and experiences he had with friends who meant so much to him. We will miss him dearly. He will always be a huge light in our hearts. We love you.
Kara and Steven Anderson

Heartfelt Sympathies

Posted at 01:46pm
In memory of John Nickelsen, a wonderful boss, mentor and partner. Dale DeShane
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A memorial tree was planted in the memory of John Nickelsen

Nona Matthews Posted at 12:12am

Thank you for being with us last week, for the memorial tree and flowers, for being there with dad in business, and for carrying on so successfully in all the years since. It was good to see you and Patti. Stay well!

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