her Life


Darlene Kay Neilsen was born November 2, 1958, in Springfield, Vermont, to James Christian "Brud" Neilsen, III and Constance Ellen Snell Neilsen.  She was the fourth of six children - Butch, Bruce, Barbara, Darlene, Nancy and Marilyn.

81 Pearl Street

The family moved to Claremont, New Hampshire in the early 1960's where she grew up at 81 Pearl Street.  Some kids have nicknames, some not so much.  Darlene didn't have a nickname at first, but Dad often said, with fondness, that her eyes reminded him of a baby calf's.  He had worked a dairy farm in his youth (I think it was Mom's Uncle Hial's farm, actually - in Dutton District).  When she was younger she wasn't particularly impressed with being compared to a cow, but think about it - who doesn't absolutely melt when they see a baby calf?  With those big beautiful eyes!  Yup, Dad was making a comment out of love - we were just too young at the time to "get it".  I think the first one to shorten her name to "Dar" was probably Donna Picard.  She lived on Walnut Street, one street up from Pearl Street.  They were best buds in grade school.  At first "Dar" sounded kinda not so right to the family.  Now, I can't imagine calling her Darlene.  "Dar" was a perfect fit for her.

Dar was a bit of a rebel "back in the day".  Basically, her view of life was that if you told her she couldn't do something, well, by golly, she was gonna show you that, in fact, she could.  Likewise, if you told her she had to do something....well, you see where that went.  She wasn't a troublemaker so much as she just wanted to control her own life.  She didn't want to be bossed around as they say.  

There was a period in her teens when Dar sought more adventure than what could be offered on her home stomping grounds.  So, she ran away - 14 times in one summer!  It wasn't that she was unhappy at home - in fact, she loved her family.  She was simply looking for more excitement.  Each time she was located she negotiated her return home.  Permission to smoke cigarettes, permission to quit school, and so on.  Eventually, Connie and Brud decided to play hard ball with her and asked the court to press charges against her as a juvenile delinquent.  Needless to say, that pretty much took the fun out of running away, and Dar settled back into her home life.

Along Came Mikey then the Kids

Dar met the love of her life, Michael Paulette in the late 1970's.  He had just gotten out of the Army.  Their courtship was brief but in no time they realized they were soulmates.  It didn't take long before they moved in together and prepared for the birth of their first child, Kimberly Lynn on October 11, 1978.   They were blessed with Johnathan Michael on April 7, 1983 and then along came Amy Marie on June 6, 1985.

Dar was a stay-at-home mother during the early years and babysat her niece, Kristel.  She used to call Kimmy and Kristel her 2 "Special K's".  She treated Kristel every bit like her own.  She was like a surrogate mother to Kristel.  At every special occasion Kristel was not treated like a niece - she was like a daughter.  Dar made birthday cakes for her parties and she and Mike showered her equally with gifts at Christmas.

Dar could take a Pampers box and a roll of duct tape and create anything to occupy the kids.  Go-carts, forts, you name it.  Once all the kids were in school Dar obtained her GED and worked for a time at P & C Supermarket.  She enjoyed her work as a cashier and the contact she had with the customers. 

Dar also had an intense interest in medicine.  So she pursued her Associates' Degree and became a Medical Laboratory Assistant, eventually gaining certification as a phlebotomist.  Dar prided herself on being able to successfully and painlessly find veins in infants and those whose veins were deeply buried.  She onced asked if it would seem outrageous for her to pursue a career as a physician's assistant.  She had the interest but wasn't sure if she was too old.  She also lacked the self-confidence.  She thought she might be reaching too far.  Her career in medicine came to a halt when she was injured in a motor vehicle accident.  It left her with sometimes debilitating neck, hip and back pain.  She was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia and deemed disabled.   

Yes, Dar loved being a mother, but that didn't compare to the joy she felt when she became a grandmother.  She babysat for Curt and Natalie when they were young.  Her love for her grandchildren, Curtis, Natalie and Addison, knew no bounds.

The Business Woman

In 2003-2004 mortgage interest rates plummeted to their lowest since the 1960's.  Barbara, self-employed as a title abstractor, was working around the clock trying to keep up with her client's demands.  Dar accompanied her on a few trips to the registry of deeds and began learning the ropes.  She indexed all of Barbara's files, would work late at night and into the next morning with huge mailings during tax lien season.  She'd apply all the address labels and earned the title of "Official Label Sticker On-er-er".  Seriously though, she was a quick study - conscientious, thorough and  loads of fun to work with!  In order to reduce her workload Barbara referred a handful of clients to Dar.  She set up shop, so to speak, and was off and running.  She soon learned that Vermont was in desperate need of title abstractors.  There being no county-wide registries in Vermont and the records not being available online,  abstractors must travel to each Town Clerk's office to conduct their research.  That was Dar's niche.  Very few abstractors are willing to travel such long distances.  They generally limit their coverage to a specific territory.  Although Dar claimed Windsor County as her home territory, if a client asked, she would travel most of the state.  Before long, she had built up a comfortable client base and quite a workload.  She worked night and day and loved every minute of it! 

Cancer Sneaks into Her Life

There came a time in 2004-2005 when Dar's behavior began to change.  To some it wasn't so noticeable - to others it was unmistakeable.  It was the summer of 2005 and Dar had begun working on her own.  Barbara and Skip were hosting the Neilsen Family Reunion at their place.  In trying to organize who would be bringing what for food, it was mentioned that Dar might not be attending the reunion.  No way!  If you knew Dar, you knew there was no way she would miss the family reunion.  Afterall, conversations would be had and news would be told.  Not a chance that Dar would miss that!  Well, Dar was a no show at the family reunion that year, and the next year, and the next year....  Anita wondered why Dar wasn't at the family reunions.  Who would she be THAT upset with?  Some family members noticed no particular change in Dar except, of course, that she was not attending the family reunion.  Others, noticed a dramatic change in her behavior.  Now, mind you, although she was unknowingly cutting people out of her life, if any one of us needed her - she would drop everything to come to the rescue.  Kimmy remarked at one point that her mom had become somewhat of a packrat.  That her kitchen counters had so much stuff on them you could barely prepare food, let alone eat it.  Of course, now we all understand the reason for the change.

Dar was diagnosed with a brain tumor on August 10, 2009.  The doctors asked if Dar had undergone any change in behavior - that it probably had been growing for as much as 5-6 years.  Although the surgery was successful she learned at a follow-up appointment that she had Stage IV lung cancer. 

Those who knew Dar, knew that she could sometimes put up a tough exterior, but inside she was the most loving and caring person.  If she knew you and liked you - she would do anything for you.  If she didn't like you - you knew that, for sure!  Nancy describes Dar as being like an M&M - a hard shell with the sweet goodness hiding inside - you just had to break through it.

The Essense of Dar

That soft, sweet soul emerged during Dar's last year.  While some might look at the photos of Dar taken during the last year and think that they are unappealing because she was so very thin and sickly, what we, her family see when we look at those photos, is the Dar we always knew who had shed the tough exterior and just radiated with sweetness.  She never once lost her dry sense of humor.  We, her family, treasure each and every memory of Dar - but most of all, the memories of her last year.

Dar did not lose the fight with cancer, she merely succumbed to it.  She fought long and hard (no surprise there, folks!), but eventually her body could fight no more.  When Dar passed, she was surrounded by those who loved her most dearly, her mother, Connie, her husband, Michael, her three children (plus one), Kim, John, Amy and Kristel, her sisters, Barbara and Nancy, and John's fiance, Meghan.