Betty Joan Neilson

October 7, 1932 — November 10, 2020

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020, Betty Joan Neilson, a loving wife and mother of five children, passed away peacefully at the age of 88 in her home, and the company of family.

Betty Jo was born on Oct. 7, 1932, in St. George, Utah, to Clawson Joseph and Dixie Judd Burgess. She was raised in St. George and spent the summer months ranching in beautiful Pine Valley, Utah. As a fifth generation of the original Burgess Pine Valley pioneers, she loved the valley and was proud of her heritage.   

She achieved an Associate’s Degree from Dixie College. She diligently served in church callings throughout her life. On Feb. 28, 1953, she was married to her high school sweetheart, Clayton A. Neilson, in the St. George Temple. Together they raised two sons, Brad (Emily) Neilson and Chris (Ronda) Neilson, and three daughters, Cindy (Marv) Reeder, Kathy (Clark) Bird, and Brenda (Thomas) Weixler, in Las Vegas before moving back to sunny St. George.

As the first grandchild to Joseph and Effie May Judd Whitehead, the owners of St. George’s treasured candy store, Betty Jo developed a hankering for sweets. Having known each other since age five, Clayton recalls Betty Jo slipping behind her grandfather’s display counter to go through all the candy boxes in search of her favorite taffy and candy bars. Her favorite thing to say was, “I’ll have one of those, one of those, one of those… and charge it!” After practically being raised in the now-historic Thomas Judd General Store, Betty Jo was inspired to keep a ‘candy drawer’ in her kitchen to share her love of sweets with friends and family, just as she had done as a child.

The candy-lover also had an affinity for horses. The time Betty Jo spent cattle ranching and horseback riding with her father resulted in her ability to out-ride all of the boys in Pine Valley, bareback, nonetheless. Though somewhat shy and uncomfortable in the spotlight, she was crowned the St. George Rodeo Queen at age 18 in 1950. 

Later in life, Betty Jo and Clayton served as missionaries in the St. George Member Locator Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They served diligently from January 2001 to July 2003, maintaining and contemporizing member records in the St. George Tabernacle.

Betty Jo was known for her dry sense of humor and witty one-liners. She was an avid reader and talented quilter like her mother, Dixie, and grandmother, Effie. She spent countless hours hand-quilting baby blankets for her grandchildren. Above all, she loved spending time with her family. 

Betty Jo is survived by her husband of 68 years, Clayton, their five children, 24 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren. Two grandchildren, Taylor and Callen, and daughter-in-law Kerry, preceded her in death. Her three siblings also survive her, Jeri (Dennis) Iverson, Jackilyn (Dusty) Fonnesbeck, C. Judd (Janice) Burgess.

Arrangements are made under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary, 110 S. Bluff St., St. George, Utah. Friends and family are invited to sign her online guestbook at

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!