Born in Penokee, Kansas to Willis and Florence (McCoy) Nickelson, Rolla Shannon Nickelson was a late Christmas present on December 26, 1920. Shannon graduated from Morland Kansas High school in 1939.
While he attended Kansas Wesleyan College in Salina he worked for a local dairy and a small café. He then worked for the Union Pacific Railroad from 1940-1941 in Kansas, Utah and Nevada. It was in Salina that Shannon met his best friend and the love of his life, Evelyn Jones. They married Oct 25, 1942, then started their married life in California where he was serving as an Army Air Corps pilot of B-17 and B29 planes (1941-1945). Military service also took them to Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska.
After the service years, he completed studies at Kansas State in Manhattan, obtaining both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Agronomy (1948 & 1949). He was a member of Alpha Zeta agricultural fraternity, and a photographer for the K-State “Royal Purple” yearbook.
He worked for the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, traveling the state for two years. In those travels he met Harlan Deaver, who invited Shannon and Evelyn to move their family of four to his farm at Sabetha in 1951. He also farmed for Paul Geiger for many years. In 1957, Shannon and Evelyn purchased the farm of John McCoy east of Sabetha, which is still the family home.
During the lean years of farming and raising the family of six children, Shannon became a 2
shift employee of Wenger Manufacturing, farming by day and operating CNC equipment thru the evening hours (1974-1991).
Shannon had many endeavors and areas of enjoyment, serving in many NE Kansas organizations. He served on the Brown County Extension Council, Kansas Pork Producers Assoc. and the SENEK Hog Testing Station helping to advance farming and crop improvement in the area. Assisting the youth of the community was a major facet of his life and included 4-H entomology and electric leadership, NCTC volunteer, Sunday School teacher of young children, and a trustee of the Sabetha Holdbrook Youth Trust. Time for hobbies was scarce to find, but he was an accomplished woodworker and made many friends in the Kansas chapter of the International Wood Carvers Society. The area Rockhounds group and the Gem and Mineral Society also widened their circle of friends. When as Senior Citizens they became eligible to participate, Shannon and Evelyn traveled to multiple ElderHostel classes and events (now the RoadsScholar organization)
Shannon died on May 6, 2011 at his residence at the age of 90. He is preceded in death by his wife Evelyn, brothers, Leonard and Randall and a sister, Verna. He is survived by sisters, Helen Saye of Asheville, North Carolina and Carolyn (Herb) Wagner of Kingman, Kansas and 15 descendants: son, Paul Nickelson of Shoreline, Washington; daughters, Barbara Nickelson and granddaughter, Eve Mattucci both of Wichita, Kansas; daughter, Flo Emerson (Claude, dec.) of Topeka, Kansas, granddaughter, Nicole Kemp (Maurice), of Topeka, Kansas and great grandchildren Job, Psalm and Koa; granddaughter, Melissa Emerson of Towson, Maryland; daughter, Carol Nickelson of Sabetha, Kansas, grandson, Robert McQueen (Olivia) and great granddaughter, Lily of Fort Lewis, Washington, granddaughter, Heather McQueen (Quentin Shaw) of Chicago, Illinois; son, Alan Nickelson of Kent, Washington; son, Richard Nickelson of Garden Valley, Idaho.
This is representative of the biological family tree but does not fully capture the extent of those he served as the other “father”, “grandpa”, “brother”, “uncle”. He was a teacher, friend and mentor to people of all ages.
Funeral services will be Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Sabetha. A visitation will be from 9:00 to service time at the church. The interment will be made in the Sabetha Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Sabetha Community Hospital, Mary Cotton Public Library or the First United Methodist Church Organ Fund sent in care of the Popkess Mortuary in Sabetha.