AVON — After his father’s death, Mayor Bryan Jensen took his usual seat at the head of City Council on Monday night.
It’s what his father, Niels, who instilled the value of hard work into his children, would have wanted.
“Niels didn’t know what a 40-hour work week was. … Niels thought if you didn’t work 24 hours a day, that was part-time,” said former Avon Mayor Jim Smith.
Smith worked alongside Niels, who was a longtime councilman for the city in the 1990s. He said it’s no surprise that Bryan Jensen inherited his father’s work ethic.
Niels, 85, died Monday in his home after a few years of failing health. Until two years ago, Niels was a fixture at his family’s business, Pine Haven Greenhouse, which he managed until his sons took over the business in 1994.
And even while he operated Pine Haven, Niels worked full-time at B.F. Goodrich in Avon Lake, retiring in 1994 after 33 years.
“His love was always in the greenhouses, but he had to make money to support us kids,” Bryan Jensen said.
Niels and his wife, Sally, had five children — Bryan, Belinda, Bruce, Becky and Bridget. The family grew up in Avon, but Niels was born in Naur, Denmark, in 1928.
There, he served in the King’s Guard for two years, guarding the Danish king and his castle. He came to the United States in 1954 to work at his uncle’s greenhouse on Center Road in Avon, later starting his own, Pine Haven, in 1966.
City Planning Coordinator Jim Piazza, who ran the former Piazza’s Floral Greenhouse, said he met Niels through the business. He said Niels was passionate about growing, and he was excited to get his children involved in the family business.
Niels was also passionate about Avon, according to Piazza.
“He’s a great guy. … Overall, it’s a real loss to the community, to the city,” he said.
Niels was an active member of Avon Baptist Church, where he and his wife were married. He volunteered as a deacon there and was an ordained minister.
His love of the city also led him to run for Avon City Council, in which he served for 10 years in the 1990s.
A thorough councilman, Niels was stubborn at times, but he always did what he believed was best for the residents of Avon, according to Smith. Despite disagreements he may have had with other Council members, he was always willing to work with them to come to an agreement.
“Niels never held a grudge. He was a true statesman; he really was,” Smith said.
Smith said Niels worked with city officials to bring Shurtech to the city, as well as improve Chester Road. One of Niels’ proudest moments was seeing his son elected as mayor, Smith said.
“He was an immigrant, and his son became the mayor of one of the fastest-growing cities in Ohio,” he said.
Bryan Jensen, who said his father who encouraged him to pursue a political career, said Niels was proudest of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“He was always afraid that his legacy wouldn’t continue,” he said. “His grandkids were always his proudest accomplishments.”
The mayor said the family is grieving but also thankful for the time they were able to spend with Niels.
“We were certainly brought up in a religious home, so we know that we’ll see him again,” he said.
The family will receive friends at a memorial visitation 4 p.m. until the 7 p.m. parlor service Thursday at Misencik Funeral Home, 36363 Detroit Road, Avon. The Rev. Paul Hendrix of Avon Baptist Church will officiate. Private interment will be in Resthaven Memory Gardens, Avon. Memorial contributions may be made to the Avon Baptist Church, 2575 Stoney Ridge Road, Avon, OH 44011.