Honouring A Truly Good Man: Harry Nielsen, surrounded by his family, passed away on April 11, 2023 on Salt Spring Island. He was 7 weeks shy of 97. Harry was born in Odense, Denmark to Mads Nielsen and Laura (Poulsen) Nielsen, the youngest of two brothers and three sisters. He became an apprentice, then journeyman and finally master carpenter. He survived World War II in occupied Denmark, then travelled to Sweden and Norway to find work.
While in Bergen, Norway, he asked a lovely young Norwegian woman directions to the Carpenters’ Union office. He and the woman, Anna-Margrethe, began to date and she eventually moved with him to Denmark where they married in 1948. They had a daughter Marianne followed by a son, Tore. In 1957 the family immigrated to Canada, settling in Brooks, AB, where Harry had several relatives and an immediate job offer, and where youngest daughter Vivian was born. Harry worked long hours saving money to buy land and build their home on Seventh St. W. When it was completed, the family moved into their very own Harry-built home.
Harry was well known and respected in Brooks and throughout the County of Newell for his excellent craftsmanship, witty humour, and humility. ‘Hi Harry!’ was heard wherever he went, and he was constantly complimented for the beautiful kitchens, custom cabinets, and quality furniture that he’d built. In his early years in Brooks he focused full-time on house building, and worked part-time as Building Inspector for the Town of Brooks Low-Cost Housing division. He spent some years building and finishing houses with Oscar Jacobsen and then started his own business, Nielsen's Cabinets. Word of mouth about the excellent quality of his work spread and he was busy even without advertising. Once established, he felt comfortable taking time for other pursuits like Sunday family picnics at Lake Newell, summer trips to BC, or Sunday afternoons at one of the various farms in the County, visiting fellow Danish families. He also began creating beautiful intarsia pieces and other wooden works of art on the lathe in his workshop. After long work days, Harry did not hesitate to help his friends, neighbours and acquaintances with furniture repairs and custom projects—often for free. In his retirement, he gave his time and skills freely to build shelving units, display cases, and custom cabinets for local organizations, like the Brooks Public Library and the IGA. He showed kindness, respect and generosity to everyone.
After his beloved Grethe died in 2006, Viv and grandson Noel became Harry’s constant companions. In 2015, the three of them moved to Salt Spring Island, BC, where Harry once again enjoyed living close to the ocean. He never completely hung up his hammer, spending his days building prize-winning wooden artworks in his workshop, helping Viv with house renovations and repairs, and contributing wood projects to their beautiful garden. Bursting with pride, he could also be found cheering on Noel at his concert performances. Harry kept himself mentally sharp: he did daily sudokus and avidly read newspapers, biographies and novels. He enjoyed TV sports, especially hockey, curling, and tennis. His sense of curiosity remained strong, as did his love of learning, and he maintained an enviable focus on health and wellness. Harry reveled in nature, primarily walks by the ocean and in lush coastal forests. As an avid birder, he enjoyed his hummingbirds and other assorted feathered friends at the feeders. He and Viv spent many mornings by their pond watching tadpoles grow into frogs, surrounded by flowers he had a hand in tending. Harry loved his animal companions, most notably their sweet dog Lego, and their cats Eli, Ollie and Eva.
Harry is predeceased by his wife Grethe, his brothers Johannes and Anton, his sisters Karen, Maria (Misse) and Lisbeth, and his best friend Abe Giesbrecht. He is survived by children Marianne (Larry Gould) of Flagstaff, Arizona, Tore (Dominique Petit) of Montreal, and Viv (Ken Milligan) of Salt Spring Island; by granddaughter Sabrina of Montreal and grandson Noel of Salt Spring Island; and by nieces, nephews and cousins in Denmark, Norway, the USA, and Canada. To us, and to many others, Harry was a great man. He will be missed. Deeply. There will be a family gathering in June on Salt Spring Island to honour and celebrate this wonderful man.
Farvel og tak Dad/Morfar/Farfar.
Harry’s family would like to express appreciation to the Lady Minto Hospital staff. Thank you especially to Zac, Amy, Jackie, Brent, and Dr. Gummeson. Dr. Gummeson, you were highly regarded by our dad and he enjoyed your regular clinic visits. For anyone wishing to donate to a cause that Harry supported, please consider the Brooks Animal Protection Society (BAPS) (https://www.bapsociety.com/), or the Cats of Salt Spring Rescue Society (https://catsofsaltspring.com/).