Doreen F. Nelsen

February 3rd 2022

Fairhaven Junior and Senior High School Educator Director of Fine Arts FPS

Fairhaven - Doreen Frances (Sylvia) Nelsen, 79, passed away peacefully Thursday, February 3, 2022, at her home in Fairhaven from complications related to Alzheimer's disease. She was the loving wife of 53 years to Merchant Marine Captain Dean F. Nelsen. Raised in Mattapoisett, Doreen was the daughter of Frank F. Sylvia of Mattapoisett and Mary (Benton) Sylvia of Dartmouth. Both parents are deceased. Doreen spent most of her adult life in Fairhaven. For 34 years, she served as a music teacher, rising to become the Director of Fine Arts for the Fairhaven Public Schools. She not only supervised the music and arts teachers throughout the system, but also taught daily choral music classes. Three generations of Fairhaven students saw their beloved "Mrs. Nelsen" as the enthusiastic and passionate music teacher who set the bar high and demanded their best efforts. Students will remember numerous musical operettas from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and amazing orchestral performances. She also identified musically gifted students whom she would nurture and assist throughout their musical careers. Doreen began her musical career at age 7 when she started piano lessons and was quickly recognized as being musically gifted. At age 10, she was playing concerts at the Mattapoisett Grange Hall, and by age 12, she was playing the organ for services in her parish church. After attending Mattapoisett Schools, Doreen graduated from Fairhaven High School in 1960. She earned her bachelor's degree in music from Manhattanville College, and a master's degree from the Hartt School of the Arts, at the University of Hartford. Doreen first taught music in New Britain, CT, and later in Wareham, Mattapoisett and finally in Fairhaven where she remained for the rest of her career. Doreen was renowned for her annual productions of the Acushnet Classic Ensemble (ACE), a summer orchestra comprised of motivated student musicians recruited from throughout the region. Doreen also created Concerts in the Park, a series of free summer concerts at the Cushman Park Band Shell. She was a committed member of the board of directors of FAME, the Fairhaven Association for Music Education. She was a proud member of Delta Kappa Gamma, a sorority of educators, and she was also a member of the Fairhaven Colonial Club. She was honored by being listed in "The Who's Who among America's Teachers" and in 2003, Doreen was named the Fairhaven Citizen of the year. She retired from her teaching position in 2007. Doreen is survived by her devoted husband, Captain Dean Nelsen; her loving son, Dr. Derek Andrew Nelsen and his wife, Jen Huang, and their two sons, Owen S. Nelsen, and Benjamin D. Nelsen, from Chapel Hill, NC; her two sisters, Nancy K. Paquin, and Beverly J. Sylvia-Boska; and two sisters-in-law, Linda Barker of Michigan and Inez Richards of Arizona; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins from the Southcoast area. Doreen was the mother of the late Craig Stuart Nelsen. According to Doreen's wishes, she will be cremated. Due to the presence of Covid-19, no gathering will be held at this time. Friends and family members will be invited to a Celebration of Life on Doreen's birthday, September 26, 2022, at the Nelsens' home in Fairhaven, weather or COVID permitting. Please honor the family's kind and respectful wishes for no calls or visitors during this period of grief and mourning. In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for a memorial music scholarship in Doreen's name that is being organized by her son, Dr. Derek A. Nelsen. Please mail or submit on-line to: The Doreen F. Nelsen Music Education Scholarship Fund ( or checks may be mailed to P.O. Box 4 Fairhaven, MA 02719. Donations will help endow a scholarship for a FHS graduating senior who will carry on Doreen's musical legacy. Arrangements are by the Saunders-Dwyer Mattapoisett Home for Funerals, 50 County Road, Mattapoisett. For on-line condolence book, please visit

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