Obituary of Walter John Nees
Walt was born in Denver, Colorado, on Labor Day, September 5, 1927, and was baptized in Granby, CO on October 2, 1927. He attended Emmaus and Bethlehem Lutheran Elementary Schools. He graduated from Lakewood High School in 1945 and attended Valparaiso University (Indiana) and Denver University on the GI Bill where he majored in Accounting. He graduated from DU with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1951.
Walter worked hard and enjoyed serving others his entire life Beginning in grade school he grew vegetable gardens and raised rabbits to supplement his family's food supply during the depression. As a teenager he worked as a janitor at Bethlehem where his father was pastor, rode his bicycle to Lutheran Sanitarium where he delivered mail to TB patients, and worked as a “soda jerk” at the drug store on Colfax. After high school he served his country in the Army as a tabulating machine operator stationed in Germany. After returning from the service, he also worked as a bus driver for Bethlehem school, and at Kramer (Lumber) Mill to pay his brother’s college tuition.
Walter returned to his family's home at Bethlehem Lutheran in Lakewood, Colorado, when he was discharged from the Army. There he met and fell in love with Muriel Anderson, a teacher at the school. They were married in 1950. Together “as one” they taught and raised four children and numerous St. Bernards at their home in Arvada, Colorado, where they lived from 1958 until 2018. Walt was known by friends as a “city farmer” and enjoyed working in the family’s 3-acre park-like yard where he again grew gardens and an arboretum of trees.
As Walt and Muriel were raising their family, he worked as an auditor “in service to others” for the United States General Accounting Office and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He also volunteered nights on a telephone hot line and at Lutheran Family Services. He was extremely active in many capacities at Bethlehem and other Lutheran congregations. Upon his retirement in 1983, he began volunteering at Lutheran Hospital with the chaplain’s office while he was completing a Clinical Pastoral Education course of study at Iliff Theological Seminary. In 1990 he was hired as a part-time chaplain at Lutheran Medical Center. Walt retired as chaplain in 2015 in order to take care of Muriel in their home as her health declined.
Walt's life was a reflection of love and thankfulness to his Savior for the grace and mercy he was given as was demonstrated in his selflessness and pleasure in serving others. His children remember him teaching them that “work is fun” and that it is important to serve others in family, church, and community. His family, friends, and acquaintances also fondly remember him joyfully singing his way through their lives. Muriel referenced these passages to describe her beloved husband: “If anyone be happy let him sing hymns of praise.” James 5:13 and “This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Walter passed away peacefully on September 3, 2023, two days before his 96th birthday. He was preceded in death by his wife of 69 years, Muriel, and sons David and Daniel. He is survived by his daughter Virginia (Ginny) Zachman & son-in-law Dennis, and son Timothy (Tim) Nees & daughter-in-law Timi, David’s wife Debbie, and Daniel’s wife Susie, 9 grandchildren & their spouses, and 13 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service for Walter will be held on Friday, October 20, 2023, at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 2100 N. Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood, Colorado, at 10:00 a.m. followed by a reception at the church. His inurnment will be on the same day at Fort Logan National Cemetery, Staging Area C, at 2:30 p.m.
Donations on Walter's behalf may be made to The Lutheran Hour or The American Bible Society.