Jack Nelson teaching a gold panning class at Rock Run, Potomac, MD - picture by Michael Raymond.
Jack Nelson, my gold panning mentor and buddy, passed away in the winter of 2002 after a short battle with brain cancer. I was just one of the hundreds of people that he taught to pan. I always knew when spring had come because I got an email from Jack inviting me to go panning. The last time I panned with him, I remember finding a large flake of gold, larger than anything he had found that day. I think he was even more excited than I was! -- David Saum
We first met Jack at a club meeting when he was talking about gold panning. He was such an engaging speaker, so clearly in love with his subject, that we couldn't wait to talk to him and arrange to go gold panning with him. We did go twice, and gold panning didn't really grab us, but a friendship with Jack did.
Before too long, the microminerals that Jack was finding in the streams led him to MNCA. He became quite an expert at identifying minerals from many local localities. He loved field trips and even served as field trip chairman for a couple of years for the Gem, Lapidary and Mineral Society of Montgomery, Co., MD. He also served GLMS-MC as president in 1990-1991. He joined the Virginia Independent Prospectors and the New Haven Mineral Club just to participate in the field trips.
One of his proudest moments was discovering the first cubic garnets. These micro garnets with orange peel-like surfaces were studied by Eugene Foord at USGS and were reported on in the 1996 "What's New in Minerals" at the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium. Jack found more cubic garnets in many other local streams, so they were not as rare as they first thought, but only he had the patience and curiosity to identify them and make them known to the mineral community.
Jack made friends where ever he went. He traded with collectors around the world and had an important voice in the hobby during his five years as the editor of the Mineral Mite. Every year brought him a number of awards for the bulletin, including a 1st place award in 2000. He also served MNCA as vice president for four years. He was our Each Club, Each Year, One Rockhound in 1997 and was the AFMS Club Rockhound for GLMS-MC in 2002.
Before he got into minerals, Jack was engaged in a number of other outdoor and crafty pursuits. He was a fisherman, a shell collector, a champion pumpkin carver and a maker of walking sticks using sassafras and other wood that he collected from the woods himself. He had a career in the Navy and then sold plants, walking sticks, lingerie and real estate until his final retirement several years ago. Their large family was also a high priority to him and his wife Leona. True to his hobby, their wedding rings were actually fashioned of gold that Jack panned in Maryland.
MNCA named Jack an honorary member earlier this year and GLMS-MC similarly honored him late last year. He also received the Presidential Merit Award from MNCA in 2000. His generosity, enthusiasm and knowledge of gold and local microminerals are unforgettable.
If you were a friend of Jack's, please send me any pictures or stories that you would like to add to this page.
To Return to the VA Gold page, click here.