John Nissen was born Cedar County, Nebraska, near the town of Laurel, to Peter Nissen and his wife Hansene Tidemann. He was married to Sorine "Elvine" Jensen in 1911 at Laurel. They lived in Vermillion, South Dakota for a while then later moved to Evanston, Illinois. John was the head of the maintenance department at Northwestern University. Elvine worked there too. He and Elvine were the parents of Howard and Gordon. He died at Evanston in 1964 and Elvine died in 1981.