Oct. 4, 1925-Sept. 13, 2012
FERGUS FALLS - Services for Gordon "Gordy" F. Nielsen are at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Glende-Nilson Funeral Home in Fergus Falls. Visitation is one hour prior to the service. Burial is at St. Otto's Catholic Cemetery, next to his wife. Military rites are provided by VFW Post 612 and American Legion Post 30. Glende-Nilson Funeral Home of Fergus Falls is assisting with arrangements. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Minnesota State Veteran's Home, Fergus Falls Fish and Game Club, or charity of the donor's choice.
He died Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012, at the Minnesota Veterans' Home.
Gordon Francis Nielsen was born Oct. 4, 1925, in Marshall, the oldest of two sons born to Lars and Elizabeth (Stewart) Nielsen, and was baptized in the Christian faith. His father was an immigrant from Denmark and was very resourceful in making a living for his family by digging ditches, hauling gravel, operating a farm and also running a cafe in Marshall for a short time. Gordy grew up on the farm putting up hay, shocking grain, threshing, corn-picking, and helping with the beef cattle, hogs and chickens. He attended Marshall Public Schools, was a member and eventual starter for the Tiger football team that had a long undefeated streak. He graduated from high school in 1943.
When Gordy was 16, he lost his younger brother, Deane, who died at age 11. Six months later, his mother died, leaving just his father. Before she died, his mother signed the papers for him to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps on July 17, 1943, when he was 17 years old. Following basic training he was assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, Co. "D" as a light machine gun crewman, seeing combat action during WWII in the Pacific at Tarawa, Saipan where he was wounded and received the Purple Heart Medal; Tinian, and Okinawa. Two weeks after the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, he was part of the U.S. Occupational Force escorting Atomic Energy Commission scientists. He was honorably discharged on Jan. 10, 1946, with the final rank of corporal.
After returning home he enrolled in college at South Dakota State University in Brookings, graduating in 1950 with a bachelors of science degree in wildlife management. While at SDSU he played football and lettered for the Jackrabbits who shared the North Central Conference Title in 1949. At SDSU he was also involved in ROTC training, re-enlisting in the Reserves on Oct. 15, 1947. Following graduation, received his commission as a 2nd lieutenant. He was called into active duty during the Korean War, and served from 1950-52 as an Army Infantry Platoon leader. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 30, 1953, with the final rank of first lieutenant. On Aug. 23, 1952, he married Kathleen Greenwood of Marshall at Austin. They lived in Marshall where Gordy worked as a clerk and Kay as a waitress at the old Atlantic Hotel. He had originally had a job lined up in his field following college, but was called into active duty during the Korean War. After he returned from the war, he was hired by the State of Minnesota's Conservation Dept. Initially he worked out of Marshall but Gordy moved his young family to Fergus Falls in 1955. He was responsible for 15 counties in Northwest and West Central Minnesota and in charge of setting up and purchasing wetlands for wildlife management as well as most of the public lake accesses, and also in charge of making surveys of pheasant, prairie chicken, deer, moose and waterfowl. He worked for the DNR for 36 years, retiring in 1988. His favorite projects were the purchase of the Rothsay Wildlife Unit, the development of Orwell Refuge, and the Canada goose restoration project.
Growing up in an agricultural community and living on a farm, Gordy was a steward of the land, naturalist and a true conservationist in addition to being an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting, trapping and fishing. In his younger days when physically able, he enjoyed golf and bowling. He also enjoyed playing cards, photography, reading, bird watching and football. After his high school and college football playing days were over he became a fan, spending hours glued to the TV watching college and pro games. Over the years he attended many of the Fergus Falls High School football games and was a fan and supporter. He enjoyed travelling, with two of the highlights of his life, together with his wife, being an Alaskan Cruise they took with Twin Cities Sportscaster Joe Schmit's group in 1995 and a trip to Hawaii with friends Norm and Lill Ringstrom in 1999. Another highlight was a trip he took with his father to Denmark in the fall of 1965 to visit Danish relatives and his father's birthplace. Gordy and his family lived on North Cleveland Avenue for 50 years before he and Kay moved to the Village Cooperative Housing in Fergus Falls. Gordy entered the Minnesota State Veterans Home in Fergus Falls in December of 2009. He was a past member of the VFW, American Legion, DAV, Elks, Fergus Falls Fish and Game Club, Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, SDSU Alumni Association and the Second Marine Division Association.
Survivors include three sons, Dean of Fergus Falls, Bruce (and Peggy) of Panama City, Fla., Paul (and Sue) of Bastrop, Texas; son-in-law Ron Fevig of Grand Forks, N.D.; three grandchildren, Thomas Nielsen of Panama City, Fla., and Abby and Nora Fevig of Grand Forks, N.D.; also several nephews, nieces, cousins and many friends.
Gordy was preceded in death by a brother, Deane in 1942, his mother in 1943 and father in 1978, son Brian in 1955, daughter Beth Ann Fevig in 2007, and his wife in 2011.