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Gary Nielsen

December 31, 1939 - December 11, 2015

Funeral service - Friday

December 18, 2015
- 2:00 pm

First United Methodist Church, Fargo


Boulger Funeral Home

Tribute Video

Gary Nielsen

December 31, 1939 - December 11, 2015


Gary Edward Nielsen, 75, of Fargo, North Dakota, died peacefully at home on the morning of Friday, December 11, 2015, after a two year battle with ALS. He was born on December 31, 1939, to Morris & Gertrude Elinor Nielsen in Sheridan County, Montana, and was the oldest of seven children. He grew up on a farm near Dagmar, Montana, where he learned to play the pump organ by ear at an early age. Later, Gary would play the piano at various events and gatherings while his mother sang and father played the fiddle.

Gary received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota. In 1962, he enlisted in the US Navy and worked as a medical corpsman during the Vietnam War at the naval hospital in Philadelphia, PA, where he met his future wife, Karen.

On October 31, 1970, Gary married Karen Annette Dickson and lived in Missoula, MT, until he began working as an agricultural technician for the USDA’s sugar beet department in Fargo, ND. Gary went on to receive a master’s degree in liberal arts from Moorhead State University (now MSU Moorhead).

An avid bird watcher, Gary was instrumental in establishing the North Dakota Birding Society. He also volunteered banding birds at the Regional Science Center at Buffalo River State Park (MN) and took bird watching excursions to Kenya and Costa Rica. Later in life, Gary enjoyed observing and collecting specimens of butterflies and dragonflies throughout North Dakota. He also enjoyed gardening and would receive many compliments every year on the many gardens surrounding his house. Gary spent many hours jogging, walking, reading, and working on word and number puzzles. He also loved spending time with his three grand-daughters whom he adored dearly.

Gary was preceded in death by his parents, Morris & Gertrude Elinor Simonson Nielsen, his sister Gail Work, and brother Dennis Nielsen.

He is survived by his wife Karen Annette Dickson Nielsen; sister Susan (Howard) Olson of Livingston, MT; brothers Morris Jr. (Judy) of Billings, MT, Loren (Ivy) of Riverton, UT, Gregg (Norma) of Miles City, MT; sister-in-law Cindy Nielsen of Billings, MT; brother-in-law Bob (Shirley) Work of Lancaster, PA; sons Benjamin of Portland, OR, Andrew (Jennifer) Nielsen of Fargo, ND, and granddaughters Marastella, Joanna, and Veronica Nielsen.

A memorial service for Gary will be Friday, December 18, 2015 at 2pm at First United Methodist Church in Fargo, ND. His burial will be at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan, ND, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Emergency Food Pantry of Cass and Clay Counties (1101 4th Ave N, Fargo, ND 58102) where Gary sometimes volunteered, the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery (1825 46th St, Mandan, ND 58554), the Salvation Army (304 Roberts St N, Fargo, ND 58102), or your favorite charity. Arrangements are entrusted to Boulger Funeral Home in Fargo, ND.


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13 responses to “Gary Nielsen”

  1. Jan & Roger Keech says:

    We’re so sorry for your loss. Your all in our thoughts & prayers.

  2. Brant Bigger says:

    As a student, my first job was in the lab with Gary. He was a great mentor that continues to influence how I run my lab.

  3. Karen Murie says:

    Karen and Family, Am very sorry to hear of Gary’s passing. Sorry that I will not be able to be at the services.


  4. Marnie Larson says:

    I also worked in the lab as a student with Gary at the USDA. He was a wonderful mentor and he was very patient and great at explaining things. I also run my own lab now, and I very much appreciate everything he taught me and his sense of humor. He also spurred my interest in all things in nature, as I very much enjoyed hearing his bird stories and hearing about his adventures and finds. I ran into Gary several times out walking when he was looking for dragonflies along the river or bird watching. I would often see him out walking to parks in my neighborhood and it always made me appreciate his adventurous spirit in seeking the natural world. I am now an avid nature explorer myself, everything from birds to fungi to butterflies, and I have a feeling some of Gary’s spirit played a role in my interest, and will continue to do so. To the family and those close, so sorry for your loss. He will be missed.

  5. Bob O'Connor says:

    I was so sad to hear of Gary’s death. When I moved to Fargo 30 years ago, he was one of the first local birders I got to know, and he was always among the most skillful. A week we spent finding as many birds as we could in Texas is among my prized birding memories. But beyond our birding friendship, he was among the kindest of friends after my first wife died. I’ve always appreciated his concern during that difficult period.

  6. Gordon Nielsen says:

    So sorry to here about Gary. Cousin Gordon Nielsen Montana City, Mt. 21 Stoneybrook Dr. Unit b

  7. Karen Kohoutek says:

    I knew Gary as from the public library, where he was a patron I was always happy to see. (You too, Karen). So sorry to hear this news. My thoughts are with your family.

  8. Joe Gartner says:

    I really enjoyed bird banding with Gary at the Buffalo River Bird Monitoring Station. I will never forget the look on his face when he pulled a White-throated Vireo out of one of the bags. I think this is the only one ever banded in Minnesota! He helped at the station for five summers and was essential to its operation. His knowledge of birds was appreciated by all of the volunteers. They enjoyed listening to his comments about each bird banded – he was especially good at estimating the age of the birds. He banded hundreds of Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, Catbirds, Clay-colored Sparrows, and about thirty other species. The banding was part of a national effort called M.A.P.S. (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship).

  9. Donna Quinney Hendel says:

    My deepest sympathy to Gary’s family. The struggle of living with ALS is over. Rest in Peace, Gary.
    Donna Quinney Hendel

  10. Duane Wilson says:

    Karen – so sorry for your loss – you and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  11. Carole & Ernie Pearce says:

    Oh, Gary, you will be missed sorely, but we are glad your struggle is over. We wanted to be at the memorial service but just couldn’t make it! We are there in spirit. We will visit your sweet family come spring/summer. The slide show made us feel like we’d had a visit with you!

  12. Morris, Judy and Nikki Nielsen says:

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you, Karen, and all of your family at this time of sorrow. We want you to know how sad we are that Gary has departed this earth. With your help, skill and care, we always knew that Gary was receiving the best of care during his illness.
    Jon, Judy and Nikki hope you find renewed strength and comfort in knowing that Gary is now in the ultimate care of his creator.
    We remember how much he loved Ben and Andrew and how close they were in sharing life together. Gary was such a talented father and his sons adored him, as do his granddaughters.
    As many do, we wait for the day that this horrible disease, ALS, will be banned from the universe forever.
    Take care and God bless you. Please call on us when there is something we can do and come visit us anytime.

  13. Myrna Barreth Beeman says:

    Gordon Nielsen sent me the notice about Gary Nielsen. I had lost contact with him, but I’m his cousin. My mother, Esther Nielsen Barreth was Gary’s father’s oldest sister. I’m very sorry for your loss. My parents moved to Portland, Oregon in 1938. I was one of 4 children, I’m the only one left. Gary was my age, I was
    three weeks older than him. We visited Montana often when we were all young. Gary and his siblings lived in the house up the road from our grandparents, but we got together alot.

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