Cover photo for Fern Nelson's Obituary
Fern Nelson Profile Photo
1911 Fern 2012

Fern Nelson

May 4, 1911 — May 10, 2012

Fern Knutsen Nelson, life-long Jackson Hole resident, died May 10, 2012, at St. John's Living Center, Jackson, Wyoming. Born 101 years ago on May 4, 1911, in Vernal, Utah, she was the youngest of Louis and Dorothy Gee-Kellett Knutsen's six children. Within a few weeks of her birth, travelling with her family by team and wagon, she came to Jackson where she spent most of the remainder of her life. Since she was not born here, Fern always considered herself to be not a "native," but a "transplant." After attending schools in Idaho and Wyoming, Fern spent most of her high school years in Jackson, graduating in May 1929. May 4, 1929, Fern married Robert S. Lucas at Driggs, Idaho. The two worked that summer to establish Robert's homestead in Spring Gulch. Robert's early death December 13, 1929, left Fern a young widow on her own with a ranch to run. With the help of her father and brothers, she learned to operate the ranch. Fern also had the contract to drive the Spring Gulch school bus, using both a converted pickup and a bobsled and team. While waiting to return the children home, she worked in her sister Hazel's Blue Bird cafAC.. Ann Nelson Ferrin, before her marriage, also worked for Hazel. Being a natural born matchmaker, she introduced her young friend Fern to her brother Albert. Fern and Albert Nelson married on September 24, 1932. Times were hard and Fern continued to ranch while Albert, a builder, contracted to make ends meet. Their marriage was blessed with the arrival of three children: Albert Louis "Boots," Dorothy Anne, and Fern Karen. During World War II, Fern and Albert went out of the valley to Utah to do "war work." Fern ran a metal lathe while Albert did construction work on military bases. After the war, Fern and Albert's ranching migration began with the purchase of what was known as the Vogel Place in Spring Gulch. Over the years they purchased and improved upon several small spreads around the valley, ending up with the upper half of the former 3 Bar H. While on the upper 3 Bar H, Fern hosted the fledgling Student Conservation Program, boarding, transporting, teaching and thoroughly enjoying the students during their summer of volunteering in the Park. Their children grown, Fern and Albert began spending their winters exploring southern climes and early retirement. Albert took up painting, Fern resumed her interest in writing. After Albert's stroke in the Spring of 1966, Fern cared for him until his death August 14, 1970. Widowed again, Fern made a new life for herself, working at an art gallery and helping out at the Jackson Hole Museum. Recording a series of the old-timers' stories, Fern became a columnist for the Jackson Hole Guide. That series, "This Was Jackson's Hole," for which she received the 1972 Wyoming State Historical Society "Historical Award," was the basis for her popular book of the same title. Fern's other interests through the years included the Order of the Eastern Star, in which she was a fifty-year member and the American Girl Scouts, for which she was both a leader and District Superintendent. She was very active in promoting the Girl Scout campouts at Granite Creek, as well as the very popular Christmas-wreath-making project which helped pay for the camp. She also was an enthusiastic member of the Jackson Hole Cow Belles, founded by Martha Hansen. In younger years, Fern enjoyed fishing, packing, and camping, which with the weight of years became travel, writing and painting, which eventually morphed into many hours of 500 Club, bridge, mahjong and socializing with her fellow "ancient agers" (her term) of Jackson. It was Fern's self-deprecating sense of humor that sustained her through many of the rugged situations of her life. She always was able to accept what was, change what she could, and move on. Fern is survived by three children: Albert Louis (Beverly), Dorothy (David) Updike, and Fern Karen Mefford and eleven grandchildren, Russell (Judy) Nelson, Christy (Dan) Santos, Teresa (Robert) Bragg, Linda (Richard) Grant, Deanne (James) Wyssmann, Dana (Kyle) Graham, Deborah (Robert) LeJeune, Diana (Valallen) Green, Donald Mefford, Dayle (Jack) Kincaid, Daren (Melissa) Mefford. There are also twenty-seven great grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren.

Fern was preceded in death by husbands Robert S. Lucas and Albert W. Nelson; five siblings, Hazel Lapreal (Knutsen) Francis, Wallace Knutsen, William Lloyd Knutsen, Josephine Lillian (Knutsen) Bloom, and Ireta (Knutsen) Vousier; four grandparents, Jens Knutsen, Joseph Gee, Maren (Larsen) Knutsen, and Sarah (Prestwich) Gee; one son-in-law William Mefford; one grandson, Douglas Nelson Mefford. The Memorial Service will be held Friday, May 18, 11:00 a.m., at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church, 201 S. Jackson St., Jackson. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts in Fern's name may be made to Jackson Hole Historical Society, P.O. Box 1005, Jackson, WY 83001. The Memorial service in under the direction of Valley Mortuary Jackson.


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