My father, Charles Woodrow Nielsen, passed away on Wednesday, June 20, 2007, in Bedford, MA, where he lived at the retirement community Carleton Willard. He was ninety-four years old.
He came to Amherst from Perth Amboy High School in Perth Amboy, NJ. At Amherst, he played primarily on the basketball and baseball teams, and he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. As a pitcher on the baseball team, he was known for his fast ball. As the story goes, his pitching helped Amherst beat Princeton for the first time, and it was nice that his father witnessed that game played at Princeton. My father roomed with Harold Warner ’34 in his sophomore year, and they lived together at the DKE house during their junior and senior years. I mention this because it was Harold’s sister, Marjorie, whom my father married in 1938.
After Amherst, Charles went to work for Price Waterhouse as a public accountant, and it was the financial world that would become my father’s passion throughout his life. After five years at Price Waterhouse, he went to work as a corporate accountant for American Cyanamid in Rockefeller Center. He recounted to me one day his watching from his office window the fire that destroyed the great French ocean liner Normandie at her berth in February, 1942. Later that year, he was the financial advisor for American Cyanamid and the War Productions Board in the effort to mine the critical war material bauxite in British Guiana. There he eventually fell seriously ill from malaria and returned home to recuperate.
Unlike his two brothers, each of whom stayed with one company their entire working careers, Charles moved around in the corporate accounting world, working for such companies as United Aircraft Corporation and Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation. One of his favorite jobs was with Edgar Brothers beginning in 1947. There, he was instrumental in changing how corporate income was viewed in terms of income taxes, and he went before the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee to successfully help get the tax laws changed. In 1953, Edgar Brothers sent him to Harvard Business School, where he met and shared ideas with corporate financial officers from all over the world. There he earned his Advanced Management Program certificate. His next job, another favorite beginning in 1954, was with Intercontinental Hotels which was a subsidiary of Pan American. While his office was at the top of the Chrysler Building in New York City, he traveled the world. On one of his trips, he had an evening meeting with Fidel Castro (in his pajamas rather than his military fatigues) who had taken over the Intercontinental hotel in Havana, and Fidel was not about to give it back or to offer compensation.
Beginning in 1961, Charles was the chief financial officer for Singer Sewing Machine in Brazil where we lived for several years. Eventually, after a job stateside with Drew Chemical Company, my father moved to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands in 1969 where he and Marjorie lived. In St. Croix, my father became a certified public accountant and opened his own business, which flourished. After my mother died in 1979, he remained in St. Croix for several more years.
Charles remarried in 1983, and he and his wife Georgia (Cox) lived in Kansas City, MO. Shortly after her passing in 1997, he moved closer to most of his children when he moved to Carleton Willard, and we always looked forward to our visits together.
This story would not be complete without saying a few words about going with my father to his Amherst Reunions. He first asked me to accompany him for his 60th in 1994. I was immediately struck by the welcoming nature of his Class, and being part of their activities and their remembering was an experience I will always treasure. Their perspective, singing, and clear pride in Amherst made me proud to be associated with them. My father and I returned for his 65th Reunion, which was understandably much less well-attended. When I brought him back for his 70th Reunion, he was apparently the only member of his Class in attendance. But his sixtieth was the most special, and I count myself lucky to have been a part of it.
My father is survived by his two brothers, five children, seven grandchildren with an eighth grandchild having predeceased him, and fourteen great grandchildren. He had a long and productive life. He loved golf, and earned three holes-in-one during his career. But, most of all he loved his family. We miss him.
—Robert Warner Nielsen ’70