Longtime South Pasadena resident, businessman and property owner Douglas Franklin Nielsen passed away peacefully in his sleep from natural causes on June 8, 2022, at the age of 84.
Nielsen was born in a farmhouse in Ringsted, Iowa, in 1937. Raised a farm boy, he always had his sights on big city life, and at the age of 18, he hitchhiked from Iowa to Los Angeles. Following a two-year stint in Germany in the U.S. Army as a result of a draft order in 1959, Nielsen moved back to Southern California into an apartment with some buddies and ended up falling in love with Helene, the redheaded girl next door. They were soon married and moved to South Pasadena, where they lived for all of their nearly 50 years of marriage.
The couple went on to have three children: Maryann, a social studies teacher at South Pasadena High School; David, the manager of Nielsen Rental Properties and a former teacher at Arroyo Vista Elementary School in SPUSD; and Christine, a User Experience Designer who lives in Durham, North Carolina.
A Certified Public Accountant, Nielsen spent his career at several firms, including Tidewater Oil Co., Arthur Anderson, Carte Blanche, Gotham Industries, Southland Electric and Daisy of California. The latter two businesses were based in South Pasadena and were locally owned.
Determined to overcome the poverty of his youth, Nielsen began investing in property in the city as a young man with little disposable income, somehow able to foresee the burgeoning value of housing in South Pasadena. Nielsen eventually owned multiple rental properties in the city, and in 1999 he retired from Daisy of California to devote his effort full-time to managing the rental business. He took great pride in his properties and his tenants alike, often getting to know them personally and once even arranging a match between a renter and the plumber.
Nielsen also enjoyed multiple hobbies in his retirement, including genealogical research, stamp collecting and Model A Ford excursions in one of his many collectible cars. He and his wife spent more than a decade as members of the Santa Anita A’s, a group of Model A enthusiasts who collect and restore antique cars and travel in them around the world. Nielsen was often featured as a driver in his Model A cars for homecoming games in area high schools, as well as for many years in the local Fourth of July parade, frequently with his young granddaughters in tow.
Despite all of these interests and activities, Nielsen’s pride and joy remained his children and grandchildren. He followed each of their academic and creative pursuits closely and supported them all in achieving their goals. He will be greatly missed.
Nielsen is preceded in death by his wife, Helene, and parents, Rose and Melvin. He is survived by his sisters Judy and Connie, daughter Maryann (David, Leah and Celia Zeiger), son David (Katy, Kayla and Kyra Nielsen), and daughter Christine (Daniel, Oliver, Nate, and Miles Seed).