Dorothy Nielsen retires from business, reflects on 64 years with company
LOMBARD — Dorothy Nielsen is a very lucky woman. In a society where so many people dislike their jobs, she found one she loved. She loved it so much that she stayed for almost 64-years.
Nielsen, 88, lived with her family in Villa Park for more than 50 years before recently moving to Lombard's Beacon Hill senior living community.
She retired two weeks ago from her position at Edmund Nielsen Woodwinds, Inc., the business she started with her husband, Edmund, on May 2, 1949.
"It's wonderful to have a business you enjoy," she said. "If I had hated what I'd done, I would have quit sooner."
Today the business' predominant niche is in selling bocals — a curved mouthpiece — for bassoons, along with reeds and other items for woodwind instruments, but it didn't start out that way.
Edmund was an accomplished oboist who was in line to join the symphony. When World War II began, he was called into service. He stayed stateside during the war and played with the Army band, which toured the country playing music and selling war bonds.
When he completed his service, he and Dorothy opened their business in downtown Chicago, repairing oboes. It continued for years, but eventually Edmund had a heart attack and Dorothy realized that with her husband's weakened health, the business needed to expand its services if it was going to stay successful.
"It got to the point that I realized his health was not good," she said. "If something happened to him, I wouldn't be able to repair (oboes)."
She took over leadership of the business and expanded its services. Her predictions were accurate when Edmund died in 1981. The couple had been married for 36 years and had four living children and a fifth who died in infancy.
She moved the store to Villa Park about 20 years ago so it could be closer to home and today her daughter Barbara runs the business, although Dorothy still owns 50 percent.
The decision that prompted her retirement was similar to the reason she decided to expand the business to sell bocals so many years ago.
"I began to realize that if something happened to me it would be hard for (Barbara) to run the business," she said.
Nielsen opted to leave the business on her own terms to be in a position to help her daughter through the transition.
She's been officially retired since Feb. 6, but isn't quite ready to settle down, yet. Despite her age, Nielsen still has strong eyes and can read without glasses, so she's been spending her time visiting people in the nursing home portion of Beacon Hill and reading to them. She said there are so many people there who can't see to read and even more who don't often have company. So, she goes to see them.
"I just don't want to sit still," she said.
At her Beacon Hill apartment, she has rows and rows of CDs tucked neatly into a cupboard, tangible evidence of her passion for music.
Before meeting her husband, an accomplished musician, she was brought up on classical music, thanks to her father who was a musician in the German Navy band before coming to the United States.
Each of her children played an instrument beginning in the fourth grade school band and continuing through high school at Willowbrook, she said.
Although she would have liked to learn to play herself, she never had the time between four children and a business.
Thanks to working for so many years, she's quite well known in the music industry both in North America and abroad. She estimates the majority of professional bassoon players have at least heard of her and her business.
Over the years, Nielsen has helped hundreds of people select and replace bocals for their bassoons. It's a small component that makes a big difference in how the instrument sounds, she said.
What she said she enjoyed most about the business was the opportunity to work with people.
"Isn't it wonderful to have a job you enjoy?" she said.
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