Calvin "Red" Nickeson

Calvin "Red" Nickeson, 84, of Great Falls, died of natural causes Tuesday, March 19, at a local health care facility.

A celebration of his life is 2 p.m. Wednesday at Croxford Funeral Home, 1307 Central Avenue, followed by a graveside burial at Highland cemetery. A reception will be held at the VFW on 10th Ave. S. Per Cal's wishes, cremation has taken place under the direction of Croxford's.

Cal was born the last of 12 children (a twin to Carol) to Maggie (Davis) and Henry W. Nickeson on a farm in rural Hubbard County, Minn., on March 26, 1928. A fond memory was when he and Carol would cajole their dad into putting the sleigh bells on the team of horses that pulled the sled when they went to special school functions.

During World War II at age 18, Cal enlisted in the Army in 1946. He zigzagged across the country on a train, serving at several bases including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he was an orderly. In 1947, he was discharged at Fort Lewis in Seattle. He returned to Minnesota for a short time and then was working in Fargo, N.D., where he heard about good paying jobs at the Anaconda Smelter in Great Falls. He loved Great Falls from the start.

In June 1957, Cal married Irene (Verstegen) Church. Their instant family was created with Irene's three grown children: Marlene, June and Larry. Soon Cal and Irene had their own - Debbie and Jewell. After losing their home in the 1964 Sun River flood, the family of four moved to the southcentral part of town while Cal worked at Grogan Robinson Lumber Company as a driver until the retail operation closed. He also held many extra part time jobs to support his family. After raising their girls and being married for 39 years, Irene passed away in 1996.

A good friend of Irene's, Jane Brock, kept in touch with Cal, and at the age of 71 they were married. Her surviving four children were a fun and loving addition to the family. But most of all, it was wonderful for them to have each other for 10 great years. Sadly, Cal was widowed once again when Jane passed away at the end of 2009.

Cal's daughters were the light of his life. His passions were hunting, fishing and camping and woodworking. He has many beautiful pieces of furniture in homes across America, including the magnificent scroll cut pieces he made with his longtime friend and neighbor, the late Jim Dieziger. He held a life membership in the North America Hunting Club. He would have been 85 on the 26th of March.

He leaves behind his twin sister, Carol Schmidtbaur; a sister, Millie Dickson; daughters Debbie Nickeson-Smith (Daniel) and Jewell Stockman (Michael); stepdaughters Marlene Barich, June Lenz (Peter), DeVonne Allred (Dale) and Carole Brock; stepson Vernon Brock; 11 grandchildren; and numerous great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wives, Irene and Jane; a stepson and his wife, Larry and Kathy (Lang) LeVeque; step grandson Mark Lenz; and stepdaughter Sandi (Brock) Caulboy.

John Lennon said, "Count your age by your friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears." We will smile through our tears as we fondly remember Cal.

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Published in Great Falls Tribune from Mar. 24 to Mar. 26, 2013