Dorothy Helen (McGaughey) Nielsen

Dorothy Helen (McGaughey) Nielsen was born Feb. 23, 1923, on her parent’s farm four miles north of Gordon. She was the first child born to Jessie (Faubel) and Robert K. McGaughey and was followed by Ruth, Robert R. (Blondie), Mary and Janice. 

Dorothy received her elementary education at Mt. Pleasant School. She and her siblings attended by riding horseback the 1 ¼ miles to get there. It was during these years that a community 4-H club was formed. Dorothy became a charter member, taking cooking, sewing and livestock projects.

In 1936, Dorothy joined the First Presbyterian Church. Thus continued the lifelong involvement and commitment with her church family, attending, then teaching Sunday school, preparing fellowship meals, studying and working with the Women’s Association, and certainly, attending church. Dorothy was recently recognized for being an 80 year member, longer than any other current member.

In 1940, Dorothy graduated from Gordon High School from the Normal Training Course of Study. This qualified her to teach in rural schools, which she did for four years. She taught one year at the White Lodge School, two years at Lone Pine, and then one year at the Mt. Pleasant School where her sisters, Mary and Janice, were among her students.

Dorothy lived her life with a sense of duty and responsibility.  That expressed itself during the summer of 1940 when her mother was severely burned in a home accident. Jessie ultimately died in Omaha on November 8th of that year. Many of the household responsibilities were thrust upon 17-year-old Dorothy, even as she began her first teaching engagement. That fall, she boarded with the Hiller family, walked the 1 ½ miles to and from school, and then returned home each weekend to help maintain the family home. She also contributed to her family’s well-being by purchasing an oil burning heating stove and later, the family’s first radio.

The winter of 1944-45 found Dorothy in Denver, working for Montgomery Ward in their large catalog mail order house. She lived in a boarding house with her sister, Ruth, and six other young women.

Dorothy married Carl Nielsen on Oct. 21, 1945, in the First Presbyterian Church of Gordon. They made their home on the family ranch 15 miles east of Gordon. Four children were born to this union, Marie, Thomas, Carol and James.

Dorothy took her responsibilities as a ranch wife and mother very seriously.  In addition to the necessary cooking for family and extras, gardening, canning, laundry, cleaning, sewing and getting the family to school and activities, there were special times. Themed birthday parties, extended family gatherings, holidays, weekends at the lake, community toboggan parties, neighborhood card parties and thoughtful gifts are some of the lasting memories involving Dorothy.  The kids were much of the ranch workforce for many years, but as they moved on in their education and lives, Dorothy enjoyed going with Carl to help as she could. She and Carl celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in Hawaii, a trip Dorothy treasured.  And after Carl’s untimely death on Dec. 3, 1974, she took it upon herself to maintain and preserve the ranch the family had built.

In 1984, as the next generation grew, Dorothy moved into Gordon but remained active in the life of the ranch. She worked at Stockmen’s Drug for a number of years and made many lifelong friends. She also joined several card clubs, playing pinochle and bridge, and especially enjoyed the socialization that activity brought to her life.  Dorothy was also a member of the Nebraska CattleWomen and Eastern Star.

Dorothy loved working with numbers and was good at it. She took great pride in keeping the ranch books in a ledger until 2004, when she turned that responsibility over to the next generation and a computer.  She was frequently treasurer of the organizations to which she belonged.

An accurate description of Dorothy would be organized and driven by detail.  She documented each child’s life in multiple photo albums and scrapbooks, including pictures of every major and minor milestone.  She also kept detailed scrapbooks of her travels to destinations all over the United States and the world.  Her passport was full! Dorothy gave a multitude of albums as gifts which documented family history in pictures and narrative. She worked tirelessly on a manual typewriter putting these masterpieces together. They will be treasured for generations.

Dorothy was preceded in death by her parents, husband Carl, brother Robert R., and sister Mary.  Survivors include: children, Marie (Jim) Jenkins of Aurora, Colo., Tom (Mary) Nielsen of Merriman, Carol (Steve) Balius of Gordon, Jim (Julie) Nielsen of Pullman, Wash.; sisters Ruth Nielsen of Gordon and Janice Shuster of Laramie, Wyo.; nine grandchildren, four step grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren, ten step great grandchildren, and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.

Dorothy moved to Gordon Countryside Care in February 2011 for health reasons.  It was here she died on Nov. 9, 2016.  Services are on Monday Nov. 14, 2016, at the First Presbyterian Church of Gordon with interment at the Gordon Cemetery.  Pallbearers are her grandchildren, Clint Nielsen, Tammi Ahrens, Crystal Staley, Jason Jenkins, Jeff Jenkins, Amber Carroll, Karla Mills, Laura Balius and James Nielsen.

A memorial has been established for the First Presbyterian Church or the Gordon Countryside Care and donations may be sent in care of Chamberlain-Pier Funeral Home, PO Box 366, Gordon, NE 69343.

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