Remembering Glenwood’s Jack Nilsson
“I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about my dad,” son and general manager of Glenwood Springs Ford, Steve Nilsson, said.
“I think that he touched so many people in so many ways, because of how kind and generous he was.”
The Roaring Fork Valley lost a pillar of the community at the end of last month, when retired local businessmen Jack Nilsson passed away at his Carbondale home Nov. 24 at the age of 92.
Nilsson came to the valley to start his own car dealership after working for the Ford Motor Company from the 1950s until the mid-’70s.
Nilsson and his brother made the trip from Denver to the valley to purchase Mountain Motors in 1978, renaming it Glenwood Springs Ford.
In 1979, Jack hired Jeff Carlson, who he had originally hired and worked with at Ford Motor Company.
Carlson and his wife, Nancy, moved their young family to Glenwood Springs, which started a partnership that spanned nearly 40 years.
“Jack and I were very close, and some in the community thought we were related,” Carlson said. “Many thought Nancy was his daughter, and in many respects Jack was like another father.”
“Dad started a long legacy of family involvement in the store,” Steve said.
In 1982, Carlson bought Jack’s partner out, and they remained partners in business ventures until his passing.
“Jeff came out and worked for dad and later became partners with him, and now Jeff, his son Zach and I are partners,” Steve added.
“It has been really neat to see it come to pass.”
Jack was an active member in the community. The long-time Rotarian and Lions Club member retired in the mid-’90s.
“After he retired, he still came into the store every day, as our chairman of the board until he was 88 years old,” Steve said.
“He loved being around the staff. He loved being around all the people – seeing customers and friends.”
Jack also enjoyed reading the Wall Street Journal and opening the mail while serving as the chairman.
“Jack was a character leader,” Carlson said. “Among his many virtues, he loved people and earned the respect of everyone who met him.”
Carlson said he has always tried to follow his lead in honesty, patience, kindness, and service to others — but no one was as good as Jack.
“He was like an ambassador for us. He liked being engaged in the day-to-day operation, and being around everybody,” Steve said.
“He really uplifted everybody when he was here, always having kind words to say.”
Jack was a family man first, Carlson added, and always made time for his family.
“He had a great laugh and was happy almost all of the time, but most happy when the kids, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were around,” Carlson said.
When Jack wasn’t enjoying a game of tennis or fly-fishing with his family or taking his children to Broncos or Rockies games, he served as the board chairman of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
“He was an amazing leader, he lead with humility and a great sense of humor,” retired Chamber CEO Marianne Virgili said, adding he served as the board chair for at least six years.
“He was so funny, during board meeting he would write a humorous comment to me — he would always put a smile on your face,” Virgili said with a laugh.
Jack was instrumental to helping build the Glenwood Springs Community Center. “He was a very active with community on the move,” Virgili said of the campaign committee that lobbied voters to support the project.
Added Steve Nilsson, “If there was an event with any of the clubs, he was always involved. He also hosted exchange students.
“He loved giving back, but he did it quietly. He wasn’t a guy that wanted to be out in front, and get his picture in the paper, but he just loved being part of the community.
“He felt the community was always so good to him, so he felt compelled to give back wherever he could.”
Jack was honored by the Chamber in 1996 as its Citizen of the Year. The award is given to the person who exemplifies the ideal citizen of the community.
Virgili talked about all the legislative sessions in Denver they attended together, where Jack testified for small business owners in Glenwood Springs.
“He was a really strong advocate for the business community,” Virgili added.
A celebration of Jack’s life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mountain View Church in Glenwood Springs.
“I think Jack’s legacy will be seen by anyone he’s ever touched, in their relationships with others … by showing more kindness, more generosity, more patience, more integrity, of course more laughter — but mostly showing more love for every soul we come in contact with,” Carlson said.
“The lasting thing I’ve heard from most people since he passed, is they remember his smile,” his son Steve said. “I think his smile is his biggest legacy.”