The remembrances and fond memories of Harold Nielsen were shared by scores of family and friends last Sunday in a celebratory service that would have made Harold very self-conscious. He never felt comfortable accepting recognition for anything he had done, unless in some way he thought it might further assistance or awareness for the people he sought to serve. But the afternoon was filled nonetheless with both tears and happy reflections for the man who influenced so many niches of life for so many.
In the aftermath of the service, as the conversations swelled with stories of Harold and Louise and their adventures, one question surfaced several times, to my great surprise. The question essentially was, what changes might be expected in the months ahead for WPF? I felt surprise at the question because I had not anticipated it. And I had not anticipated it because I foresee very few changes to the Foundation due to Harold’s passing. Allow me to elaborate. Continue reading After the Tears and Laughter→
And finally, someone did! I have worked with Harold and Louise Nielsen since 1974.
I served as Foldcraft Co.’s first human resources manager, succeeded Harold as the Company’s second-ever CEO and was provided the opportunity to lead Winds of Peace Foundation, the private foundation begun by Harold and Louise. In between all of that, I served on the Board of Miracle Ranch Children’s Home, a private orphanage established by the Nielsens. I served on the Board of the Nielsen’s Third World Friends Thrift Store in Kenyon, MN, where tons of donated clothing is either sold or sent to Third World locations to benefit the poor. Harold and Louise have always been entrepreneurs, innovators, people who are willing to try new ideas and most often on behalf of others. When you are around individuals like that, things happen. Exciting things. Unexpected things. Naturally, I love to talk about these things.
Anyone who has ever met either of the Nielsens is ready to tell a story, including me. It might be about how they grew their company, or how they came to start the foundation, or about some act of generosity that seems to be their trademark. Every occasion I’ve had to speak publicly about any of the organizations created by the Nielsens has generated queries about these two innovators. Few people have ever met this selfless couple and NOT been moved by their down-to-earth nature and their quiet spirit of caring. The questions are generated by curiosity about what moves these everyday people to act in ways that so consistently impact the lives of others, even around the world. And now, I have a means to provide at least some of the answers.
Steve Swanson is a retired Lutheran clergyman and professor of English at St. Olaf College. He has written many books for both adults and children, and he continues to write and preach as opportunities arise. But his most recent book, One Couple’s Gift (Nine Ten Press, Northfield, MN), is the result of a long-developing relationship with Harold and Louise, and his growing admiration and amazement at the lives of these two visionaries and the initiatives which they created. I had the chance to contribute in some very small ways to the book since I’ve had the privilege of an “inside look” at so many of the Nielsen’s endeavors. But the book and the observations are really Steve Swanson’s and it’s a wonderful story that he tells.
The timing of the tale could not be better, in my opinion. These rather dark economic days have given rise to deeper introspection by many of us, an occasion to examine our lives, our priorities, what’s truly important and necessary versus that which is peripheral and transitory. One Couple’s Gift provides a powerful message through a simple but remarkable story. It gives me at long last a resource to partially explain the fertile environment in which I have found myself working since 1974, leading me to explorations into such worlds as business ethics, employee ownership, servant leadership, microlending, the plight of the poor, and, ultimately, human love and compassion.
What I have been surrounded with for all of those years is now reflected in Harold and Louise’s moving story, and in a book that I can share with others. I just wanted you to know….