Mr. Melvin Nielson
Class of 1940
Career Pathway: Business, Management, Marketing & Technology
Melvin K. Nielson was nominated by Roger Kesseler, a 2004 inductee into the Alumni Hall of Fame.
"Mr. Nielson is probably the most successful businessman to ever graduate from Grayling," wrote Mr. Kesseler.
Melvin was born on the south side of the AuSable River near downtown Grayling in 1922. At Grayling High School, he had roles in the junior and senior plays, lettered in baseball, was a member of the ski jumping team and the GHS band and was assistant editor of the monthly Newsletter.
After graduating in June 1940, Melvin managed the Grayling Golf and Country Club. In the fall, he was hired by Mr. John Bruun, president of Grayling State Bank, where he worked until he was called into action in World War II in December 1942.
After training in Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona and Tennessee, in December 1943, he was shipped to Northern Ireland for more training. He entered France on D-Day Plus 26 via the Omaha Beach invasion. The war ended for Melvin on May 5, 1945, when his regiment met Russian soldiers at the Elbe River in northern Germany. He was discharged from active military duty in October 1945. He had attained the rank of staff sergeant and was awarded a Purple Heart and four Bronze Stars for his actions in the European Campaigns in the Hürtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge.
After serving in the United States Army, he received formal education in accounting, tax law and sales at the Lansing School of Business and Accounting and Detroit Business University. After graduation, he returned to Grayling and was rehired by Mr. Bruun.
Eventually Mr. Nielson started his own accounting and tax company, bought the Grayling Insurance Agency, developed the Sherwood Forest subdivision and the Viking Village complex, became involved in various oil and gas ventures and constructed a new office for his company on M-72 that now houses the Grayling Township offices. He also served for several years on the Crawford AuSable School Board under the leadership of Superintendent Joseph Stripe.
"Mr. Nielson is one of the pioneers in developing the northern Michigan oil and gas industry, and his contributions are unparalleled," wrote Roger Kesseler. As president of North Michigan Land & Oil Corporation and with other investors, he had 161 gas wells drilled, and another entity, Nielson Enterprise, drilled 131 wells all within 50 miles of Grayling.
Mr. Nielson is proud of the fact that charitable foundations he helped establish have donated millions to pro-life, Christian and other worthy causes from his hometown to Washington, D.C. and around the world.
He retired from active duty in his business activities in 1986 at the age of 64. A new company was formed under family control, Generations Management LLC, which continues activities in real estate, oil and gas ventures, property management and various private equities, Pathway Homes and TEAM Services, with Melvin’s support and watchful eye.
Mr. Nielson has published a book, Man From Grayling, which will be available at the Devereaux County Library, the Grayling Historical Society, the Otsego County Library, the Grand Traverse Area District Library, the GHS library and the Central Michigan University library.
He and his wife Ruth have three sons who also graduated from GHS: David in 1967, Steven in 1969 and Dale in 1971.