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Richard (Dick) Neilsen

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Richard (Dick) Neilsen Obituary
Richard (Dick) Neilsen The remarkable Richard (Dick) Neilsen, accomplished cook, actor and vocalist, landscape artist, golf enthusiast, and food industry leader, passed away on Thursday, August 23, 2018, three weeks after celebrating his 78th birthday. Known as "Richard," "Poppi" and "Uncle Dick" in his family, "The Elder Statesman" in his golfing group, and "Rabbit" when he was president of his college fraternity, Dick impressed people throughout his life as a natural leader. Business colleagues and friends admired his old school values, integrity and inclusiveness. He listened. A favorite saying of his was "seek to understand before being understood." The son of a brick-layer in Idaho, Dick appreciated the skill involved, but sought other paths. He served in the Army in Korea and, though proclaimed by a senior officer as the best Second Lieutenant he had ever seen, chose not to re-up. Instead, he traveled around France for a couple of years in a small camper discovering himself and his love of food. He began his career with Dole Foods running its pineapple operations on Maui. In Sonoma County, California he worked with several food companies, notably Mezzetta, Mayacamas and Spectrum Naturals. He finished his career as manager of McEvoy Ranch and broadened its olive oil business to include wine and a line of olive oil-based beauty products. Dick relished his role as mentor and earned the respect and adoration of his colleagues, especially the many women whom he employed, encouraged and promoted. Dick preferred to meet with customers, vendors or employees in person and over lunch, especially if veal piccata was on the menu. He always put people before business and insisted that relationships are what make a business not transactions. Dick was kind, compassionate and generous. Dick was an accomplished cook who owned a library of cookbooks, including those of his favorite, Julia Child. He often saw recipe ingredients as mere suggestions, readily improved upon by what he found in his pantry. He admitted he was somewhat messy though and, while orchestrating a complex meal, his kitchen often looked like it had been hit by a bobcat. Dick's food passions were eclectic, ranging from extra virgin olive oils and homemade pizza and turkey to guava juice and gummy bears. He loved golf jokes, corny puns and the Japanese poetry haiku. He would often create a tune for his most confounding haiku and sing them as he sauntered about the house. Dick was the sort of man who enjoyed shopping so kept his wardrobe overstocked. He liked casual elegance. Typically for a golfer, he liked color, though his combinations were never jolting. He had a flair for sport coats that evoked an elegant and dapper life and had fun with hats, including the dinner party to which he wore a coonskin cap that resembled a beaver. As was his wont, he had found it on sale. Some of Dick's happiest times involved his golfing group that took annual pilgrimages to Bandon Dunes in Oregon and other great courses, including several in Scotland and Ireland. While others in the group were still recovering from late night carousing, Dick would greet the dawn at the practice tee. A high point for Dick was playing the famous Princeville Makai golf course on Kauai while sharing a cart with the course architect himself, the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Jr. Dick enjoyed acting with the Sausalito Players at the Sausalito Woman's Club and was an accomplished vocalist. His performances in Marin County included singing as Frank Sinatra in a Rat Pack tribute group. Dick enjoyed theater, ballet and shopping for art at galleries and festivals, especially the Sausalito Art Festival. Even near the end, Dick's own creativity was in full bloom. He was a prolific landscape artist who produced several oil paintings as gifts for friends and family that evoked special memories. Family was vitally important to Dick, so his last best idea was to begin a family newsletter for what he called the Five Arms of a Family, including five related family names molded together through him. Kristin Quinby, his daughter-in-law, published the first issue last month with contributions from everyone and Dick couldn't stop smiling. On Sunday, September 30 at 3:00 pm, a celebration will be held at the Sausalito Woman's Club in Sausalito, CA. Parking is non-existent, so use public parking at the corner of Spencer and Monte Mar Avenues using the Spencer exit from Hwy 101. Additional parking is available at the Episcopal church, 70 Santa Rosa Ave. Public parking is also available on Bridgeway and Anchor. Shuttle pickups from all three lots will start at 2:00 pm and will return after the event. The family requests that in lieu of flowers those whose lives Dick touched consider making a donation to the Sausalito Woman's Club Preservation Society or Hospice of East Bay, both nonprofit organizations.
Published in Marin Independent Journal on Sept. 16, 2018
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