Remembering Dennis J. Nieland (1933 - 2000)

— as told by Lorraine Nieland Starman to Elaine Lawson, November 2001

I am trying to think what I should tell you about my brother Denny. He was born when I was 5 years old. Mom was pregnant with him when Grandma Nieland died. She was told not to look at the body or it would "mark the baby" an old wives tale. It didn't happen. He was a cute little guy and fun. We played together on the farm. Once we crawled through a tunnel in the straw stack the cows had made while eating the straw. We also went up into the corncrib, climbed the steps to the ladder and then climbed that ladder into the empty oats bin and into the shelled corn bin where we "swam". How dangerous! If mom or dad had known! We would play in the buggies that Grandpa Nieland left in the grove and Denny would pretend to drive and I would play the grand lady. Once he climbed up to the top of the windmill too. He had a tricycle that he pulled a brunch of discs strung on a long bolt that was normally used on a wagon box. He attached these with a wire and pretended he was disking. He once rode his trike on the gravel road toward Uncle Louis' farm where dad was helping his brother. When Denny was asked why he did that, (he was into Sac County quite a way), he said, "Oh, a bumble bee chased me."

When we moved to Grandma's [Margaret Lappe] he made friends with Jimmy and Gene Daniels who lived across the street. One was in his grade 3rd then and the other was a year ahead. The older boy got a Des Moines Register paper route and Denny and Jim would go along to help. Denny begged the paper boss, Mr. Baker to let him have a route too. Mr. Baker bent the rules a bit and gave Den a route. He had that route well into high school and when he wanted to play football he gave it up. I was told the paper route had to be split in two because it was so big. Denny had increased his customers that much.

After high school, Denny took the job my husband [Tony Starman] left delivering bottle gas. Then after about a year he, Corky Haman and Jim Daniels applied for jobs with Western Electric, a division of the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company. They became installers of switchboards. Denny stuck it out to retirement.

Denny lived at home with Mom and Marilyn in the house Mom had built. He was sent to many places to work and eventually met Alberta [(Skaran) Nieland], a divorced woman with a small boy who worked as a telephone operator. When Denny brought her home to Carroll I was married with 2 children. Denny and Alberta were later married by her uncle. When the twins were born, Denny called about it and a couple of months later Tony and I took our kids and Mom to Minneapolis where they were living.

Denny became very successful and eventually was transferred to Omaha, Nebraska as a supervisor. He bought a home in Millard and had the eastern part of Nebraska and western part of Iowa as his territory. He had to be cleared by the FBI as he supervised the communications wiring at the Strategic Air Control at Omaha. He also supervised the installation of a satellite for the public broadcasting in western Nebraska. He always had farming in his blood so they bought a run down, 90-acre farm close to Missouri Valley. It had an old house on it. They went every weekend and cleaned up the place. They decided they liked it so well that they sold their home in Millard and had a Wausau manufactured home put on a basement foundation and moved into it. Denny consulted the farm agent and brought the land into good production. He raised good crops and eventually had terraces built to make more of the hilly land tillable. It is a beautiful place. Tony and I visited it a couple of years before Denny died and it is so peaceful. He did not want to move to town when he retired early from Western Electric.

A few years after they moved there he had a pig nursery built and raised feeder pigs. Bert worked hard with them when Denny was gone and even helped the mother pigs have their babies. There was a good deal of money in that project. They fed the corn and sold the soybeans he raised. He got out of the hog business eventually and the year before he died he rented out the land. They bought a retirement trailer in Texas, close to his high school buddy, Corky Haman. They spent one winter in it but Den got sick the second winter. He had to be flown to Omaha and taken to the hospital for tests. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He took some treatments, but eventually refused any more. Alberta called a priest as Denny had many times said he wanted to come back to the church. He had the last rites and had a funeral mass. He is buried in Omaha. Coming back to the church is the only thing that helps me reconcile with his death. Denny was a wonderful guy and a good brother whom I saw far too little of in my grown up years. We saw each other most when mom (at age 82) got hit by a car coming home from Mass on Dec. 8 and got a broken leg. I took care of her after she left the hospital.


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