Cover photo for Alfred B. "Al" Nielsen's Obituary
Alfred B. "Al" Nielsen Profile Photo
1947 Alfred B. "Al" Nielsen 2023

Alfred B. "Al" Nielsen

January 11, 1947 — November 5, 2023

Poughkeepsie, New York

 

Alfred B. Nielsen,  “Al”

 Born on Staten Island, NY, on January 11, 1947, to Shirley (O’Neill) and Kenny Nielsen, Al grew up in a lively and loving family, attended local schools, graduating from St. Peter’s High School in 1964.  

 He moved to Poughkeepsie, NY to attend Marist College and graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1968.  Following graduation he worked for IBM, but then decided to go to graduate school at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington for a masters in zoology. While there he worked as an anatomy instructor for medical students.

  But his favorite job was on a local farm.  Learning to operate equipment for digging trenches, putting up fencing, planting and harvesting, he was exposed to people who had grit and resilience, who could solve problems with ingenuity, and these experiences filled him with a sense of camaraderie and stories.  He would sometimes say he wished he had stayed to continue working with his hands and learning the trade.  He loved everything about the countryside, the rolling wheat fields, the endless skies.

After graduation from WSU he moved back to the Hudson Valley. He taught at Anderson School, which at that time was a residential school for kids for whom traditional schools were not effective.  He became connected through friends to The Old Coat, a bar in downtown Poughkeepsie where he worked on sets for their theater productions, and wrote a one man play about Albert Einstein entitled Gedanken.  It was performed and well received. People remembered it and in the 1980’s invited him to perform it at a summer cultural series. The actor who had originally performed had left the area and so Al powdered his already long wild hair and did it himself.  Even in the last month when he was on the memory care unit, he talked about how he should ask the administrators if he could perform it for the residents.

His last and longest employment was with Dutchess County where he started as a field inspector for the Health Department and eventually became the head of their public water supply program.

Over the years he was an adjunct professor at Marist College, teaching science and writing classes.  He wrote several books and his novel The Summer of the Paymaster was published by Norton in 1990. It was reviewed in the New York Times. 

Hiking was his passion; he even backpacked through the winters.   The Catskills and the White Mountains were his favorite haunts, and one summer he made the hike to the top of Pike’s Peak.

Al was endlessly creative.  Besides writing, he loved playing his guitar, collecting odd pieces of wood, metal, ropes, and filling the house and yard with his “found” sculptures.

He was a community builder – not in a formal way, but because he was so frequently puttering outside, he came to know  the neighboring dogs, children, walkers. He would stop to talk to people, interested in them, offering a flower or a knot he’d just tied. He made up sidewalk games for the kids, or would resurrect them from his childhood and teach whoever was around. Or he would just sit and talk with some passerby when he saw them resting on the wall across the street.  He would help anyone that he saw having difficulty. 

In his last several years he faced declining cognition, eventually diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.  It was extremely frustrating as he recognized his loss of words, his understanding of how things worked.  A wonderfully talented music therapist from Hospice gave him such pleasure as she played guitar along with him, filling in the gaps when he could no longer play chords but still could use various strumming techniques. That was a great gift.

 He died peacefully on November 5, 2023 in the care of Treasure Coast Hospice, Stuart, Florida.     

He was predeceased by his parents, his brother Chris Nielsen, and his sister, Lynn Pellino.

He is survived by his sisters Ginny Nielsen, Gail Hedderman, Gretchen Thaiz (Ray); his son Kevin Nielsen, his daughters Kirsten Collins (Brandon) and Danielle Yaw; his second wife, Becky Nielsen, and her children Geoff Householder and Teah Baker; and treasured grandchildren Alex and Analise Householder, Shawn Spencer, Mia Donaldson, Marcus Baker, Landen Yaw, Ethan Baker, Holden and Tatum Collins.  He also leaves and loved his nieces and nephews.

He was a longtime supporter of Doctors without Borders and Dutchess Outreach.

A memorial celebration will be planned later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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