Shirley Nielsen told Lynne Berg, neighbor and executor of her estate, she would “never be old enough for a senior center,” but a change of heart led her to donate her entire estate to the Eppson Center for Seniors and Edgewood Spring Wind Assisted Living after her passing in June.
An estate sale for Nielsen’s belongings will be held from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Eppson Center for Seniors, 1560 Third St. Featuring hundreds of items including furniture, clothing, jewelry and souvenirs from Nielsen’s travels all over the world, the proceeds of the sale will be split equally between the two senior centers.
“We couldn’t be more delighted to be entrusted with what she’s left,” said Tammy Comer, executive director of the Eppson Center. “It’s an amazing gift. It’s an amazing representation of her and her faith in our center, and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Nielsen didn’t spend any of her time on Earth idle, Berg said, whether it was skiing up and down Medicine Bow Peak or traveling to over 38 countries around the world. She never thought she would need a senior center, Berg added.
“She was a force to be reckoned with,” Berg said. “Shirley was a very strong-willed person with lots of ideas and was very willing to share them. She had in her mind it was more like a place where people go who couldn’t do or wouldn’t do or were unable to do things for themselves.”
After a surgery left Nielsen in need of the Eppson Center’s assistance for meals, Berg said Nielsen saw the Eppson Center was more than she expected, with opportunities for socialization and resources to help her continue to live at home.
Nielsen went from refusing to go through the doors to being heavily involved with the Eppson Center, Berg said. Organizing Friday night group outings, joining in the center’s first whitewater rafting trips and enjoying art classes were just some of the activities Nielsen took on, and Berg said her contributions were vital to the Eppson Center and later Edgewood Spring Wind Assisted Living where she spent some time after a stroke.
“The thing that’s fascinating about Shirley — and the thing that I found most heartwarming — is that she was a registered nurse, actually one of the first nurse practitioners in this state,” Berg said. “At Spring Wind, she was working with the nursing staff and they were helping her. So that’s how she got connected with their needs.”
Even in her passing in late June, Berg said, she thought of the work the Eppson Center and Edgewood Spring Wind were doing and left a heritage gift for both nonprofits. The money will be invested, Berg said, with interest rates used to help fund activities the Eppson Center organizes and medical supplies for Edgewood Spring Wind. Berg said anyone can leave a heritage gift for the Eppson Center through their will or estate.
“We call it heritage gifting because what she’s doing is, she’s paying back her community to support the programs that meant the most to her and supported her staying independent and out of a nursing home for her entire life,” Berg said.
Cash and check are accepted at the estate sale, but no credit cards. Comer said there are no early-bird specials; doors open at 11 a.m.
“It’s a huge gift for her to have done it, but it’s also a wonderful example of what support can do from the community to make sure these services are around for other people who come later,” Berg said.