Obituaries: Millicent Ward Niesen (1915-2007)

April 13, 2007 12:00 am
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Millicent Ward Niesen, 91, died in her home April 11, 2007. She was born April 27, 1915, in Oakland and was a 53-year resident of Del Norte County.

Millicent entered University of California, Berkeley, at age 16, working her way through, and graduated summa cum laude with an Arts and Teaching degree in 1935, studying with professors Chiura Obata and George Stewart, among others.

Millicent taught in the Oakland public schools for two years and was in line to become the arts director for the Oakland Schools system. But in 1937 she married Clifford Niesen and moved to Burbank where he worked as an aeronautical engineer for Lockheed Aircraft. She later returned to the classroom as a substitute teacher in Del Norte schools.

In 1954, struck by the beauty of the Northcoast region, she and Cliff left Los Angeles and moved to Gasquet where they and their older children built their house. The family lived without electricity for five years.

In 1968, the family moved into Crescent City, and in 1981 Cliff designed and built Millicent's dream home overlooking the ocean. Cliff included a studio where Millicent returned to her art, painting in water colors for a number of years.

Millicent was an active member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Crescent City, the Community Concert Assocation of Crescent City, the American Association of University Women, the Cal Alumni Association and the Gasquet Sewing Club. She was an inspiring long-time volunteer at the Crescent City Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, supported Habitat for Humanity and the American Cancer Society, and rang the bells for the Salvation Army Christmas kettles. She also served as a Girl Scout leader.

Millicent was preceded in death by Cliff, her husband of 68 years; her brother Joe Skinner; her parents James Arthur Keith Skinner and Millicent Archer Ward Skinner; and her stepmother Agnes Skinner. Survivors include her children George (Mimi) Niesen of Salinas; Rosemary Garcia of Huntington Beach; Joe Niesen of Crescent City; Roger (Peggy) Niesen of Ellsworth, Maine; Clyde Niesen of San Rafael; Louise (Brad) Mason of Crescent City; and Laura Neditch of Napa; 14 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren (with two more due this summer).

Memorial services will follow at a later date, after which her ashes will be scattered in the ocean in front of the house she so loved, to join her husband's.

Make donations in Millicent's memory to the Del Norte Scholarship Foundation, in care of Doris Whalen, 275 Elk Valley Road, Crescent City, CA, 95531, or to St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Scholarship funds will be awarded specifically to arts students.