Thomas James Nelson III

Thomas James Nelson III

January 21, 1936 - November 10, 2023

Thomas James Nelson III

January 21, 1936 - November 10, 2023


Thomas James Nelson III, born to Thomas James Nelson Jr. and Marie ‘Anona’ Nelson (Ryan) on January 21, 1936, in Los Angeles, California.

Military Service

He served in the United States Air Force, during the Korean Conflict, from February 10, 1953, to January 6, 1957.


Earned a Juris Doctor Degree from Western State University College of Law in Orange County, California in 1975. He graduated 24th in a class of 175; Earned a Master of Science Degree in Systems Engineering from West Coast University at Los Angeles in 1967; Earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electronic Engineering from Pacific States University at Los Angeles in 1961, placing 2nd in a class of 12.

In addition to his earned degrees, he graduated from the National Technical Trade School, and performed graduate studies at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Professional Experience

Worked 30+ years for the McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company-West as an Engineer/Scientist. He authored several technical publications and designed several unique patentable devices.

Member of the California State Bar Association and practiced law as principal partner in the law firm of Zanelli, Nelson, & Harvey.


He received the American Jurisprudence Award in Contracts and Torts and was honored with a Corpus Juris Secundum Award while studying at Western State University College of Law. He also served as Vice-President of the Student Bar Association at Western State University, and President of the Student Body Association at Pacific States University, and later was President of their Alumni Association. He also served on the Board of Trustees of Pacific States University.

Member of the American Bar Association, the Orange County Bar, and Trial Lawyers Associations.


He was a certified scuba diver, enjoyed spending time with other members of the ROF’s (Retired Old Farts), traveling, camping, hiking, running and many other outdoor activities.

Survived by

Sharon Rae Erickson, spouse; his children: Thomas James Nelson IV, Julie Anne McDonald (Nelson), Mark Scott Nelson Sr.; grandchildren: Mark Scott Nelson Jr., Erica Mamie Laino (McDonald), Kevin Jesús Nelson Flores, Katie Marie Milburn (McDonald), Tanya Michelle Nelson, and Jessica Nicole Nelson; great-grandchildren: Tatiana Mikaella Jimenez, Scarlet Ember Rhoads, Mason James Laino, and Jaxon Keith Martinez.

Also survived by extended family members and very close lifelong friends including Jef and Sharon Marie Matthews (DeLay), Jeb and Kristine Kuns (Dietz), Kevin R Dietz, Sydney Kuns, Kyla Kuns, Tim and Chris Martin, and Jerry and Joanie Kaczorowski.

Preceded in death by

Father: Thomas James Nelson Jr.; Mother: Marie ‘Anona’ Nelson (Ryan); Sister: Sister Beverly Ann Nelson; and son: Keith Wayne Matthew Nelson.


Graveside Service

  • Date & Time: December 5, 2023 (12:00 PM)
  • Venue: El Toro Memorial Park
  • Location: 25751 Trabuco Road Lake Forest, CA 92630 - (Get Directions)
  • Phone Number: (949) 951-9102

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