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.