Betty Nielsen, 84, of Sandusky, passed away on March 19, 2021 in Stein Hospice Care Center.
Born in New York, New York (borough of Queens), she made her first overseas journey in 1937 to visit admiring relatives in Denmark. This trip may have been the spark that led—decades later—to interminable car-borne, two-week summer vacations with her husband and children. Washington DC, Niagara Falls, Williamsburg, and other popular east coast destinations were thoroughly explored throughout the 1970s, interspersed with frequent visits to Endwell, New York to see cousins, Inger and Gunnar. Along the way souvenir shops were pillaged by the kids, and she tolerated this with patience, if not enthusiasm. Later, with the kids gone, more upscale vacations with husband and friends were to follow, and the souvenirs were nicer.
A smart kid, Betty was skipped a grade, graduating early from Andrew Jackson High School, after which she worked as a legal secretary in Manhattan. A pretty young woman in the Mad Men environment of the late 1950s, Betty’s children feel fortunate that her brother, John, steered her towards an old Army buddy. Gordon—despite being tall, lanky, and having big ears--successfully beat back the competition and married Betty in June of 1959. A file box of saved letters from the 1957-1959 courtship period testify to Gordon’s persistence. These remain untouched for 60 years, and the children are afraid to look at them.
Moving to New Jersey in the early 60s, Betty and Gordon worked hard to have children. Following a miscarriage she was told that this would probably never happen, a crushing thought to them both. Two years and two children later, they took a break to move to Matthes Ave. in Perkins Township, the most wonderful street in the world. Having put down roots and taken a deep breath, they had two more children, the last being born on the day the Apollo 11 astronauts were released from quarantine.
Betty leaves behind four boys who grew up knowing that they were loved and who were given enough rope to learn to make decisions but not enough to hang themselves. They also learned to be Danish, at least a little. She is predeceased by her husband, Gordon, a great guy and even better father. Following Gordon’s death in 2008, Betty pulled up her big girl pants and went on to lead another chapter of a fulfilling life. She hiked and lunched with the Wednesday Walkabouts group, attended Elder College lectures, and worked (on Thursdays!) at the Grace Episcopal Thrift shop. Betty is also predeceased by her parents, Thormod and Helga; her brothers, John and Clem; and many friends from across the years. She will be post-deceased by many more, to include her children, Mark (Christy), Andy (Kate), Dave (Samantha), and Glen (Heather), and wishes them all a long, healthy, and happy remainder of years before she sees them again. Betty wished to have a Viking funeral, but the authorities have frowned upon a burning raft with her remains being pushed into Lake Erie. Perhaps one of a very few unfulfilled wishes.
A celebration of life service will be held when we can once again gather together. In lieu of flowers please join (or make donations to) St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ and/or volunteer with Erie Metro Parks (https://eriemetroparks.org/volunteer). Toft Funeral Home & Crematory, 2001 Columbus Ave., is handling arrangements. Condolences may be shared online by visiting toftfuneralhome.com.