Joseph P. Nistler, railroad conductor, homesteader, equipment operator, snowmobile racer, bronc rider, moose hunter, dippnetter, painter, sculptor, wind surfer, alpine skier, bird watcher, father, husband, and cowboy at heart, died Thursday, August 23, 2018.
Born in 1926, in Federal Dam, Minnesota, Joe grew up in humble beginnings in a large Catholic family. After high school, Joe joined the Navy during WWII and worked as an electronics technician in a ship repair unit. After being honorably discharged in 1946, he attended the University of Minnesota. On a Thursday afternoon in the fall of 1950, his brother Paul swung by to tell Joe he was headed to Alaska. Joe said, “If you can wait until tomorrow I’m quitting school and going with you”. The next day they headed north in a 1949 Mercury.
Joe looked for work in Fairbanks and Anchorage; times were hard, and he was only able to find temporary work until finally getting on with the Alaska Railroad. His first assignment was in Whittier, because he heard that it was the warmest place in Alaska. After learning this was not true and spending the worst winter of his life, he transferred up to Fairbanks, where he worked as a brakeman and conductor on nightshifts while attending classes at the University of Alaska during the day. After receiving his liberal arts degree, he felt he needed different employment. He hounded the Alaska Employment Agency so much in his job search they finally gave him a job as a claims investigator since he was in the office so often anyway. Joe spoke fondly of this job as it allowed him to travel extensively throughout the Interior and northern parts of Alaska.
In 1955, Joe filed for a tract of land in Delta Junction under the Homestead Act. In the winter he worked for his brother Paul at Alaska Motor Coaches and part-time for the Alaska Highway Department. He eventually got on full-time with Highways.
In 1968, Joe returned to Minnesota to attend his father’s funeral. Due to an Alaska Airlines flight delay, his sister Cecelia introduced him to the love of his life, Bette Waldo. He and Bette hit it off right away. He soon took her to Alaska for a short visit and they were married soon after. Bette was widowed with three children ages 13, 12, and 2. Not intimidated by the task, Joe drove his new family up the Alaska Highway to Delta Junction, where they lived in Big Delta for many years. Joe loved his family and provided adventure, support and guidance, introducing them to new experiences and paving the way for their success.
After the kids were out of the house, he semi-retired in 1984, and Joe and Bette were able to travel all over the world. They lived in Delta in a beautiful home in the Clearwater area until the time of Bette’s death in 2015. Soon after, Joe went to live at the Pioneer’s Home where he had three good years - splitting time between the Pioneer’s Home and Delta.
He is survived by his sisters Cecelia Nistler, Agnes Rushing and husband Harry Rushing; sister-in-law, Eula Nistler; step-sons Don Waldo and partner Alison Heyman, Dean Waldo and wife Sharon Waldo, Dave Waldo and wife Crystal Stordahl; grandchildren Heidi Waldo and husband Chris Juhlin, James Waldo and wife Emily Waldo, Donnie Waldo, Krista Meeks and husband Randy Meeks, Alan Waldo, Elizabeth Stordahl, and Mary Stordahl; great-grandchildren, Everett Juhlin, Edison Juhlin, Joseph Waldo, and Betsy Waldo.
He is preceded in death by parents Andrew Nistler and Marie Nistler; brothers, Leo Nistler and Paul Nistler; sister Maryann Lessard; and wife Bette Nistler.
A mass will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church. Following that, a celebration of life for Joseph Nistler will be held beginning at 1 p.m. at the Clearwater Lodge. The family invites the community to attend to both services, to share stories of Joe and his amazing life in Alaska and beyond.
In lieu of flowers, please donate online to the Breast Cancer Detection Center of Alaska at http://m.bcdcofak.org/