Words: MASONRY Magazine
Photos: Glen and Cole Nielson
Editor’s Note: In this month’s installment of the Wall of Fame series, we sat down with long-time mason Glen Nielson. Glen has worked within the masonry industry since he was 16 years old, comes from a long line of masons, and is proud to keep the tradition going with his son and grandson. We’d like to thank Glen and Tony Nielson for taking the time to talk with us and sharing his legacy with us.
MASONRY Magazine: How old were you when you started in the industry?
Glen Nielson: I received my union mason card when I was 16, believe it or not, in 1954 in Utah.
M.M.: Can you tell us about your background and how you got started?
G.N.: I come from an extended family of masons: My grandfather was a mason and my dad was a mason contractor, and he taught me and my two brothers the trade.
M.M.: What drew you to the masonry industry?
G.N.: The joy of being able to build something with your hands, the craftsmanship, and reward of being able to see the building still standing today.
M.M.: What are some of your earliest memories at work?
G.N.: Working with my father, the friendship I made with fellow masons, which have lasted a lifetime.
M.M.: What’s kept you in the industry this long?
G.N.: The pleasure of seeing my son and now my grandson keep the name and trade going in our community
M.M.: How did you progress through the industry?
G.N.: I started working for my father as a tender. Then, with the help of some of his employees, I gained the skills necessary to progress. I earned my union card at a young age and never really looked back.
M.M.: What is the hardest part of working in this industry?
G.N.: I do not think it was so much the physical labor, but watching the changes that have come with progress — the lack of young people willing to work with their hands, get dirty, and do a hard day’s work for an honest living with more than respectable pay.
Sometimes change is good and so are new ideas. In my opinion, the skills of an expert mason will never be replaced with a robot. The history of masonry is still based on the same principles built hundreds of years ago.
M.M.: What do you like about the industry?
G.N.: The fact that most of the buildings I worked on in the 1960s are standing and are in just as good of shape as when we completed them.
M.M.: What is your legacy?
G.N.: The fact that I hope I positively affected so many lives, built many projects for the professional sector — and some of the best memories were the houses, cabins, and fireplaces for friends. Knowing that I was able to pass on my skill and knowledge to my son and now my grandson. The ability to help and train young masons and watch them grow, start their own business, and thrive. Hopefully, keeping the trade strong for many more generations.
M.M.: What does this work mean to your family?
G.N.: I enjoy the fact of being able to build my own house, which I bricked in 1960, and being able to live in the same house today. It gave me the opportunity to help my son build and brick his house. I helped my grandson with his Eagle Scout project donation of building a monument sign at a local city park, and helping him with trowel skills when he was just 14.
Being able to see the skills passed down from my grandfather to my father to me, then down to my son, and now my grandson. Five generations of masons who have provided for their families, learn a wonderful trade, and know that the legacy my grandfather started is still strong and in good hands.
M.M.: Do you have any advice for people who are going into this field?
G.N.: Keep going, never give up. Be proud of what you do. Know that what they are accomplishing is something that many could not accomplish. Be proud of what you build and enjoy what you do. Always take the time to do your best because the quality you build will long be remembered over the quantity.
M.M.: What does being recognized as someone who has done so much mean to you?
G.N.: This recognition is appreciated; I have never been one to seek recognition and just enjoy the compliment when someone says that it is a beautiful building, home, or fireplace. I enjoy being able to look back and reminisce about the project completed, remember the men who helped build the project with whom I got to work with, and the fact that I worked on something that has been a focal point of the community for years past, present, and future. Thank you.