Thursday, July 22, 1999

Jack Nielsen, former head of floral businesses, dies

Jack Nielsen, former head of floral businesses, dies
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Jack Nielsen, co-founder and former president of Ann Arbor-based Nielsen’s Flowers & Greenhouses, died Sunday at home after a yearlong illnesses. He was 86.

Memorial services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Muehlig Funeral Chapel, 403 S. Fourth Ave., Ann Arbor.

Remembered for his quiet and unassuming manner and his business acumen, Nielsen developed the retail side of the family business until his retirement in 1982.

Some associates recall thinking of Nielsen as the “white tornado: because of his light blond hair and high energy. Family members remember that he was difficult to keep up with in the store and on the way to buy fresh plants and flowers.

Nielsen also served as a charter member of the Pittsfield Township zoning Board of the Appeals in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Remembering Nielsen as a natural leader in promoting environmental concerns during zoning ordinance planning, former township supervisor Robert Lillie described Nielsen as a “very fine man” when they were both involved with township service.

A native of Aarhus, Denmark, Nielsen came to the Untied States in 1925 at age 12 with his parents and two brothers.

After living in Des Plains, Ill., and Mt. Clemens, the family settled in Ann Arbor in 1934.
The greenhouse, originally known as Nielsen’s Flower Shop, is located at 1021 Maiden Lane. It is in its 65th year of business this year.

During World War II, the family business experienced some difficult times.
“People weren’t buying flowers then, obviously,” said Paul Nielsen, his son.

To compensate, Jack Nielsen converted some of the greenhouses to henhouses. He then raised chickens, donating thousands of eggs to the University of Michigan community for the war effort, said his daughter-in-law Diane Nielsen.

Nielsen, a traditional and reserved man, “always showed that he cared,” said Mary Ann Nielsen-Nisley. She remembers that her father was instrumental in encouraging her, along with siblings, to be involved with the family businesses and nature.

Nielsen devoted most of his time and energy to the greenhouse and flower shop, working seven days a week. He was president of Nielsen Flowers and Greenhouse from 1959 until 1982.
Inducted into the Ann Arbor Bowling Hall of Fame, Nielsen also enjoyed a long involvement with the Harness Horseman’s Association in Michigan.

Nielsen also is survived by a brother, Paul Nielsen of California; sons Frederick Nielsen and Larry Nielsen; nine grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 50 years, Theresa, and his brother Brent F. Nielsen, who also worked at the family business.

Originally published Tuesday, June 22, 1999