Leon Albert Nesja, 77, Bismarck, entered eternal life Sept. 5, 2018, at Sanford Health, Bismarck. Celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at Messiah Lutheran Church, Mandan, with viewing held at 10 a.m. prior to service. Interment will be held at Mandan Union Cemetery. Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, at Bismarck Funeral Home, with prayer service at 7 p.m.
Leon Albert Nesja was born in Lubbock, Texas, on Aug. 26, 1941, to Albert and Thelma (Strang) Nesja. At about nine months, the family, including older sister, Blanche, moved back to North Dakota to a farm near where Albert grew up, about 30 miles south of Dickinson. Leon attended grade school in Havelock, and graduated from New England Public High School. He graduated from Dickinson State Teachers College in 1963 and taught math and science at Mott Lincoln High School for two years before moving to Mandan. He was united in holy marriage to Janice Schulz on Nov., 26, 1965. They lived in Mandan, where he taught math and science at Mandan High School for 31 years. Leon earned a MS degree in science teaching from NDSU in 1974. He and Janice both retired from teaching in 1996.
Living on a farm naturally meant there were firearms around. Albert fished, ran a trap line, hunted pheasants, deer, antelope, and coyotes; Leon tagged along to learn the ways of the outdoors. Leon was hunting jack rabbits alone by the time he was 10 years old and shot his first deer the year he was old enough to get his first license. Pheasant hunting, and archery were his greatest passions through high school and college.
One summer day in 1976, Leon and two friends were at the local shooting range where they saw a gentleman getting ready to go to a high-power match in Devils Lake. The three entered the match, and Leon was hooked. He shot mostly for the fun of it, for the free ammo, and the comradery. Leon set a goal of distinguished rifleman and at the time it seemed like an impossible dream for a more than 40-year-old out-of-shape, bald guy with glasses and a plastic pocket protector in his shirt pocket. With a lot of practice, swimming laps three to four times a week, and talking with other shooters, the goal was achieved in 1987. Along the way, a master classification was earned with the service rifle. Leon competed 13 years at the National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio with the North Dakota team. In 1996, he won the North Dakota State Service Rifle Championship. Leon taught Hunter Education for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and Women on Target classes. He was inducted into the North Dakota Shooting Sports Association - Hall of Fame in 2010.
Leon also enjoyed fishing with his buddies, hiking in the Tetons, hunting, was a member of the Roughriders Camping Club, a member of the Muzzleloaders Club, and served his church in many capacities. For five years he was the treasurer for the North Dakota Science Teachers Association and was listed on the Who’s Who Among Americas Teachers as selected by one or more students he taught. He enjoyed playing cards, visiting with friends, and had a repertoire of Ole and Lena jokes.
Grateful for sharing Leon’s life is his wife of 52 years, Janice. Surviving family members are his brother-in-law, Frank Herberholz; nephew, David (Wanda) Herberholz; and niece, Carmen (Larry) Parks. Also included are his grandnephew and grandnieces.
Leon was preceded in death by his parents; and sister, Blanche Herberholz.