Dr. Major A. Nilson, a prominent Carmichael resident who served the community as a longtime veterinarian and volunteer in civic, faith and youth groups, died Sept. 24 of shingles complications, his family said. He was 88.
Carmichael was a quiet, rural outpost of small family farms when Dr. Nilson opened his veterinary clinic on Fair Oaks Boulevard in 1954. As Sacramento’s suburbs grew and his caseload evolved from horses, cows and lambs to dogs, cats and other family pets, he added animal hospitals in Citrus Heights and Roseville and operated a thriving practice for 43 years.
A farm boy raised in the Mormon church in Utah, he connected instinctively with Carmichael’s civic traditions of small-town values and service to others. He served on an early planning board, raised money to build a band shell at Carmichael Park and helped organize the annual Fourth of July parade. He was an active member and leader in the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce for 51 years and belonged to the Elks Club, Rotary Club and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
“He wasn’t a passive participant in anything,” said his daughter Laurel. “He joined because he wanted to make things happen. He liked to get things done. He liked to make things nice for other people.”
Dr. Nilson was a pillar of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He answered calls to serve at all levels, from growing tomatoes for the church cannery to leading followers as a bishop of three wards and member of the presidency in two stakes. He was instrumental in acquiring land and raising money for construction of two meeting houses and a stake building.
He shared his faith with future leaders as an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts. He served on the board of the LDS Aaronic Priesthood Encampment, a character-building program of outdoor and spiritual activities for troops sponsored by the Mormon church, and helped rebuild a Scout lodge at Camp Winton. He received two of Scouting’s highest honors; the Silver Bear and Silver Beaver awards.
“He was a hardworking man who had integrity in everything he did, and that meant a lot to him,” said Bryan Andersen, who served with Dr. Nilson in church and Scouting activities. “For that reason, he worked tirelessly with organizations that matched his values because he knew they would work to pass those on to future generations.”
Born on Dec. 22, 1924, in Smithfield, Utah, Major Amos Nilson learned to care for animals at an early age while milking and driving cows to fields on his family’s farm. After serving in the Merchant Marine in the Pacific during World War II, he graduated from Utah State University and earned a veterinary degree from Washington State University. He worked as an extension pathologist and associate veterinary professor at UC Davis before going into private practice.
A Carmichael resident for almost six decades, Dr. Nilson had two children with his wife of 64 years, Lucy. In recognition of his community service, he was named honorary mayor of Carmichael three times. He was a past president and board member of the Carmichael Chamber of Commerce, which twice named him Man of the Year and honored him in 2011 as Business Person of the Year.
“Major cared about people, but he also was a person who really was a giver,” chamber executive director Linda Melody said. “Service was very important to him, and he demonstrated that with his commitment and support for other people and organizations that demonstrated that as well.”
Besides his wife and daughter, Dr. Nilson is survived by his son Bryce; two sisters, Wanda Johnson and Carole Hodges; and four grandchildren.
A visitation is from 5-7 p.m. today at Price Funeral Chapel, 6335 Sunrise Blvd., Citrus Heights. A service is set for 10 a.m. Friday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5505 Hackberry Lane, Sacramento.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Perpetual Education Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at pef.lds.org/pef.
Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila