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Grete Nygaard

April 19, 1924 ~ February 14, 2018 (age 93)

Grete Nygaard, age 93, went home to her Heavenly Father on February 14th, 2018 at the Heritage in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Mom was born in Aars, Denmark, April 19, 1924, the cherished only daughter of Hjalmar and (Petra) Helene (Hedegaard) Bertelsen.  In 1928, her father decided to emigrate to the United States. She and her mother followed soon after, beginning a new life in the Danish-American community of Chicago just as the Depression began.  Unable to use his training as a typesetter until he learned English, Grete’s father began a butter and egg business, with Helene and Grete on the payroll.


Grete began school at age 4, knowing no English. Like her parents, she was bright and determined to succeed.  She skipped a grade, graduating from Proviso High School in 1942, at age 17.   By then there was a war on, and Grete worked as a secretary in a torpedo factory.  While attending a dance in March, 1944, she met a tall, handsome Navy pilot, (Erick) Dan Nygaard.  Their wartime romance, fueled by letters and occasional leaves, led to their marriage on May 25, 1945, in Brookhaven, Mississippi.   


When the war ended, Grete and Dan settled in the Chicago area, where her father had returned to the printing trade.  Dan and Hjalmar went into business together, founding Elmwood Park Press.  Grete and her mother helped with the business through the years, but Mom’s main job was always taking care of her children and her home.  She became a terrific mother, an expert cook, a gracious hostess, and a special friend.  Her house was always clean enough, her door was always open, and our beautiful mother presided.  Sharing her love of books, she gave us a great gift: she read to us.  She encouraged us to tough it out when we had a problem, but she also knew how to listen compassionately.  Her unique sense of humor demonstrated that stoicism and tenderness, giving us all the preparation to face life, come what may.


Through the years, Mom demonstrated her adventurous spirit, taking numerous trips throughout the world, with Dad or with “The Group”, her neighborhood friends in Des Plaines.  She even ventured to take her grandchildren, two by two, to a destination of their choice, when they turned 10. It was “a good age because they still listen!” Mormor rode horses at a dude ranch, let kids eat grilled cheese sandwiches at every meal, and told no tales when they returned home.  She was the perfect grandma.


After her children left the nest, Mom worked for many years as an executive secretary, and later as a paralegal, retiring at age 70.  When Dad retired in 2000, they decided to move to their dream home in Homosassa, Florida, where they remained until failing health necessitated a move to Wisconsin in 2014 to be near family. 


Grete will be deeply missed by her children, Erik (Martha) Nygaard of Hickory, North Carolina; Glenn Nygaard of McHenry, Illinois; Ellen (Gerald) Thain of Stoughton, Wisconsin; and Gail (Gary) Miller of Kaukauna, Wisconsin; 12 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.  She was predeceased by her husband, Dan, in December, 2017, and by her parents.  They have no doubt rejoiced to welcome her home.  Since she fought so bravely for so long, we rejoice in her homecoming as well.


A memorial service will be held at 11am on Saturday March 3rd, 2018 at Covenant Christian Reformed Church, 1601 Covenant Lane, Appleton, WI. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation be made in her name to the Danish Home of Chicago, 5656 N Newcastle Ave, Chicago, IL 60631.   We would like to thank the angel staff of the Heritage for their tender care of our mother for the last 4 years. “Come unto Jesus!  He’ll gently guide you unto that haven where all who trust Him may rest.”

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