Andersen, Nels Marlou, Saginaw, Michigan


Our beloved husband, father, grandfather and brother went to dance with the angels on Wednesday, March 04, 2015, in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by his family. He was 91 years old. Nels Marlou Andersen was born on April 7, 1923 in Flint, Michigan to the late Ernest and Ethel Mae (Sweers) Andersen. Nels was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. He married the love of his life, Judith E. Stein on September 28, 1957 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. After high school, Nels attended Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, then earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Group Work Education from George Williams College and his Master of Arts in Education from New York University. He completed 43 hours toward his PhD in Religious Studies at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York. Nels began his career as Director of Religious Education and served in Congregational and United Church of Christ churches in Akron, OH, Kenosha, WI, Nutley, NJ, St. Joseph, MI, and Saginaw, MI. He established and directed parent cooperative nursery schools in three of the five churches. Nels was one of the founders of Saginaw County Child Development Centers (SCCDC) in 1968 and served as Executive Director of the agency until 1992. Under his devoted direction, the agency grew to serve nearly 1,000 children, with 17 childcare centers throughout Saginaw County and a staff of more than 150 employees. A pioneer in early childhood education, Nels wrote the grant to fund the first Head Start program in Saginaw County, which operated under SCCDC until 1998. He authored several groundbreaking projects for preschoolers and their parents, he helped established the READ program, established the Saginaw Summer Childcare Feeding program, and administered the Emergency Food and Shelter program. As a young man, he and his sister Barbara served as missionaries in the upper peninsula of Michigan. From 1969 to 1978, he also taught child development and children’s literature courses on a part time basis at SVSU, Delta College, Wayne State University, John Wesley College and Mott Community College. Nels also taught language arts enrichment in grades 1-3 at Longstreet School. In 1998 the SCCDC Board of Directors founded the Nels Andersen Scholarship Fund with the Saginaw Community Foundation, which provides funding for students pursuing undergraduate studies or vocational training in early childhood development or elementary education. He was a delegate to the Michigan White House Conference on Handicapped Children. He served as treasurer and helped develop materials of incorporation for the Fair Housing Commission of Saginaw County. Nels was a member of the following professional organizations: World Organization for Preschool Education (OMEP), Member of American Education Research Association, Council for Exceptional Children, Children’s Literature Association, Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children, Michigan Head Start Directors Association, National Association for the Education of Young Children, and Saginaw County Coordinated Childcare Association. After retirement, Nels worked as an independent consultant for Head Start and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In recent years, he served as a member of City of Saginaw Planning Commission and the Northmoor Neighborhood Association. Nels was also a civil rights activist. He joined other concerned citizens in ending the practice of Redlining in Saginaw. In 1965, after the televised atrocities in Selma, Alabama, Nels and Judith Andersen expressed their horror in a telegram to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King responded by telegram, requesting that they join the march into Montgomery Alabama. He and other like-minded individuals from Michigan joined the protest. Nels brought his personal interest in the arts to his work in the church and incorporated dance, drama, and poetry into religious services. In each church, he formed and led groups of men and women, girls and boys in Sacred Dance as a part of worship, after attending Jacob’s Pillow dance school in Becket, MA. A humanitarian and advocate for the underprivileged and underserved, Nels lived with humility and humor, and was very much loved by the many people he touched throughout his long life. Nels is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Judith Ellen Andersen; his daughters: Belinda Andersen and Nancy (Peter) Owsianowski; grandchildren: Nicholas Andersen Owsianowski and Katharine Andersen Owsianowski; his sisters, Barbara Louise Andersen and Mary Alice Wisniewski; sister-in-law, Stephanie Sue Tolan; brother-in-law, Joseph (Carole) Vernon Stein. He is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his brother, Ward Junior Anderson, and his parents, Ernest Andersen and Ethel Mae Sweers. Honoring Nels’ wishes cremation has taken place. A Memorial Service will take place at a later date. Arrangements have been entrusted to the Deisler Funeral Home, 2233 Hemmeter Road. In lieu of flowers, those planning an expression of sympathy may wish to consider memorials to the Nels Andersen Scholarship Fund at the Saginaw Community Foundation, 100 S. Jefferson, Suite 201, Saginaw, MI 48607, www.saginawfoundation.org/donate. Share your thoughts and memories with the family through www.deislerfuneralhome.com.