Serving the community since 1922

Lance William Nickelsen

Jan. 8, 1963 – Nov. 20, 2023

Lance William Nickelsen, 60, a beloved son, brother, uncle and friend, passed away on Nov. 20 at his home in Caliente.

Lance was born on Jan. 8, 1963, in Bakersfield, to John and Virginia Nickelsen of Shafter. He attended Richland Schools and Shafter High, graduating in 1980. Growing up, he ran track and swam competitively with the Shafter Stingrays and SHS swim teams. Through 4-H, he raised livestock, learned woodworking and entomology, and excelled at photography, turning the household kitchenette into a dark room and traveling to Europe on a photo tour.

He played the trumpet and was a talented writer. He was industrious from an early age, building and fixing things – he erected a radio tower on the side of the house controlled from his bedroom and rebuilt the engine of his yellow Toyota Hilux on a break from college.

Lance earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural engineering technology from Oregon State University. He returned home on summer breaks to work for his dad, checking fields up and down the Central Valley with Supervised Control Service.

He started his career with John Deere at South Kern Machinery. He ran the shop for many years, becoming fluent in Spanish and earning respect from colleagues nationwide for his expertise in tractor design, mechanics and repair. Later, he worked as an engineer for Cannon & Associates in the Bakersfield field office and at Esys, the Energy Control Company.

For the past 15 years he was with KSI Engineering. As principal process and I&C engineer, he managed all process piping and facility design, instrumentation and controls for clients in North Dakota, Kansas, Texas, Wyoming and Colorado. He had a brilliant mind - once solving a design problem by hand calculations that Shell Petroleum's modeling software could not replicate.

He learned ballroom dancing, gracing the floor at his wedding - he was married for a short time. He was also a self-taught musician, playing rhythm and bass guitar and performing with the Dirt Road Band at venues around Bakersfield.

Always ready with an analogy or one-liner, Lance formed memorable relationships and lightened the tone of any conversation - even on air where radio personality Jim Rome knew him as "Lance from Bakersfield." He was resilient, kind, caring and loyal.

He set up shop on his property in the foothills and took meticulous notes of all of his projects. He tended to his land and watched after his neighbors. It was his respite from the world. He had more life to live and plans for that - just not enough time.

He is survived by his mother, Virginia Nickelsen; sisters Dana (Ron) Lessley, Kara (Steven) Anderson and Nona (George) Matthews; and niece Scarlett Matthews. His father, John Nickelsen, passed away in 2021.

Services are pending. Please feel welcome to share a memory of Lance at


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