David Eric Nees, aged 68, died peacefully at home on November 1, 2021 in Evanston, Wyoming, surrounded by the laughter, tears, and songs of his family with his dog at his feet. Dave was a devoted husband, loving father, playful Opa, and passionate mental health professional.
On November 18, 1952 in Denver, Colorado, Dave became the firstborn of Walter and Muriel Nees. On a 3-acre parcel on the outskirts of Denver, he was taught the joy of a hard day's work and the pride of a job well done. His childhood was bathed in Lutheran tradition and a calling to serve others.
During high school he met and fell in love with Debra Jean Kerr, took her to the homecoming dance, and ultimately married her on August 16, 1975. In their 51 years together, they worked side-by-side, shared a strong Lutheran faith and navigated peaks and valleys. The joy of their lives was to welcome three children into the world and teach them to work hard, do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
Dave became interested in social work starting at age 9 and spent his career providing mental health access for rural communities. He received his undergraduate degree at Valparaiso University, a Master of Social Work at the University of Nebraska, and the professional accreditation of ACSW. He served the communities of Gunnison, Colorado; Casper, Wyoming; Lemmon, South Dakota; and Evanston, Wyoming. In Evanston he rebuilt Pioneer Counseling Services to provide a broad spectrum of individual, family, and community mental health services to all. He also created an innovative, community-based network of facilities and programs for chronically mentally-ill adults to live independently. In this capacity, he humbly impacted many lives.
He loved living in the mountain west, where he could fish, garden, dream up new recipes, and explore the outdoors with his family. Travel expanded his horizons, and he explored the world with Debbie by his side and his adventurous children leading the way. His passion for travel increased and was fueled by an eagerness to create relationships with local people, often over a shared meal or recipe. He had an insatiable curiosity for learning new skills and hobbies throughout his life.
Following his diagnosis of lymphoma in 2010, Dave challenged himself to “live every day” and was able to do so thanks to the excellent care he received from his team at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
He is survived by his wife Debbie, children Elizabeth Nees (William Engisch,) Erica (Braden) Barrows-Nees, and Andrew Nees (Rebecca Gobbi de Faria); grandchildren Charlotte and Eric Engisch, and Eleanor and Arlo Barrows; father Walter Nees; and siblings Virginia (Dennis) Zachman, Daniel (Susie) Nees, and Timothy (Timi) Nees. He is preceded in death by his mother Muriel Ellen (Anderson) Nees.
A funeral of remembrance and celebration will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church at 50 Yellow Creek Road in Evanston, Wyoming on Tuesday, November 9 at 10:00am. Masks required. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Evanston Recycling Center, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or Lutheran Services in America.