Axel Christian Boilesen

April 18, 1923 - March 21, 2013


Joy and Thanksgiving Memorial Service, St. Paul United Methodist Church


Family Tribute by Doug Boilesen, March 25, 2013


On behalf of our family, I want to thank you for coming today.

Dad was quite specific that when this day came and we were gathered in this special place that the theme should be “Joy and Thanksgiving”. In some notes that Dad wrote in 2004 he identified sources during his life for his own joy and thankfulness. He began in these notes where you can guess he would start, with his wife Betty. He wrote the following to us, his children:

“What a blessing she was to my life and her entire family and I know she would say what a blessing each of her family members were to her. I like to recall from each of your births how precious you were in her tender care. How can we help but feel “joy and thanksgiving” for the remainder of life’s journey?”

We were all fortunate to have had 9 more years with him after he made those observations about the remainder of his journey. But instead of the remainder, let’s start at the beginning, when on April 18, 1923 Axel was born to Chris and Elizabeth Boilesen. Named after his grandfather Axel, which in Danish means the Father of Peace, he was the fifth of six children and was the baby of the family for 12 years until the sixth child, Garold was born. The family lived on a farm outside Cotesfield, NE.

In Dad’s words “it was a simple farm environment with an abundance of quiet times. Life on a farm consisted of hard work with no questions asked. But there was always parental love.”

The Great Depression, drought, and loss of their farm made the 1930’s difficult years but through it all Dad said he never heard bitterness or complaints by either of his parents. Instead he learned the importance of family and to be thankful for what they did have. He also probably learned a thing or two about politics since FDR was revered by his Dad and fireside chats were part of their home.

Dad joined the army in 1943 and was in Europe until the end of the war but he never talked about his war experiences until 1996 when he finally wrote down some details. One description that stands out in his writings was when his company commander was reading off the names of those being reassigned as replacements following initial heavy losses at the Battle of the Bulge. One particular soldier seated next to Dad broke down crying when he heard his name called since everyone knew what those reassignments potentially meant. Dad asked if he could volunteer to take his place…and that was immediately done. Dad’s explanation for volunteering was that the other soldier seemed much younger and it just seemed like he should go instead. The letters Dad received from family and particularly from my mother were treasured by him during these months when joy would be hard to imagine; and as for thankfulness Dad summarized his war experiences by simply stating “I was always thankful for survival.”

After the war and his discharge from the Army he married Betty Ann Barr on August 25, 1946. Let me quote again directly from his notes:

Great joy and thanksgiving – There is no limit to the importance of this long and blessed period. Love letters, beautiful bride, loving and caring mother of our three children, supporter of my satisfying career and her glorious influence on everyone she met. I cannot express how thankful I have felt for these blessings. Our family at each stage of life brought special joy to our lives.

In the final section of his Joy and Thanksgiving notes which he titled “Church Family” he wrote the following:

Essentially the entire period of our marriage, birth of our children and grandchildren centered on this church and the many dear friends associated with St. Paul United Methodist Church. The spiritual strength and support by this extended family was always with me. My religious beliefs lead me to be supportive of all faiths that recognize a “Greater Power” with love for all.

If we had time there are so many other specific memories of joy and thanksgiving that we could talk about: 71 Club, Men’s Club, his love of playing games like pitch, bridge, sequence, croquet and golf; , making home-made ice cream; collecting antique phonographs and radios; his annual June 5 Danish Holiday letter to his children and grandchildren; our family’s annual Easter Egg Competition; the annual Axel and Betty Christmas card: Ole and Lena jokes, life at 544 Lyncrest and his 9 years at The Legacy Estates – all of these trigger memories that we will have for the rest of our lives. And all of these connect to family and friends of Axel and directly reflect the character of Axel.

Abraham Lincoln said the following about character.

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.

Many friends in the last few days have described Dad’s character just as you would expect with words like, “he was devoted to his family and a great friend”; he “brought joy to everyone he touched”, he was friendly to all who met him, he was authentic, he was the most genuine human being I have ever known, he had an infectious good humor.”

Axel Christian Boilesen was clearly the tree and the real thing. Our family knows how lucky they were to have him in their lives. And all of us truly believe he will always be with us.

In closing let me summarize by saying that when Dad said he wanted this service to be one of “Joy and Thanksgiving” I think you would agree that this was really an instruction to celebrate how he touched the lives of family and friends. I want to pay tribute to my sister Bev and brother James, and my brother-in-law Ron for all the special love and care they have given to Dad, particularly during this last year. I'd also like to thank my wife Sharon for her support to me in all matters of the heart.

And though its jumping ahead, on behalf of our family, I want to invite you to join us downstairs after this service where we can continue to find joy and gives thanks today… as we remember Axel.




Axel Christian Boilesen, 89, Lincoln, died Thursday, 3/21/2013.

Born 4/18/1923 in Cotesfield to Chris and Elizabeth Boilesen. USDA Soil Conservation Service, head of design for Midwest. Graduate, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, civil engineering. Member, St. Paul United Methodist Church. Veteran of World War II in Central Europe including Battle of the Bulge. Axel was proud of his military service but it taught him to abhor war and align with peace activism. Axel was united in marriage to Betty Ann Barr on Aug. 25, 1946. Love for his family and the friendships he made as a Lincoln resident since 1946 were sources of joy for Axel. His Danish sense of humor and positive attitude were a delight to all who knew him.

Survivors: sons, daughter-in-law, James Boilesen (Lincoln), Doug and Sharon Boilesen (Denver); daughter, son-in-law, Bev and Ron Jester (Lincoln); grandsons, wives Ryan Jester and Laura (Madison, Wis.), Cameron Jester (Moscow, Idaho) and Nicholas Jester (Chicago), Clinton Baker and Rebekka (Billingshausen, Germany); Matthew Baker and Tara (Lincoln); great-grandchildren, Chaige and Taelyn Baker (Lincoln), David and Haylie Ann Baker (Germany); brother, sister-in-law, Garold and Andrea Boilesen; sister-in-law, Bernice Boilesen. Preceded in death by wife, Betty; parents; brothers, Floyd, Lester; sisters, Lois Stevens, Fern Stroh.

Celebration of life: 11 a.m. Monday, March 25, St. Paul United Methodist Church. Reverend, Dr. David Lux officiating. Memorials to St. Paul United Methodist Church.






ADDENDUM 1 - May 2013

Axel had a great sense of humor but was particularly amused by Ole and Lena. Here are five jokes that I know he would have loved today although they didn't make it into our Family Tribute comments because they would have been better if he was in the pews listening. But Ole and Lena deserve some mention so I'm adding these jokes here, as an addendum:

Ole went to the doctor for a physical. After Ole was dressed the doctor came in and said "I am sorry Ole, but you are very sick and have only a few weeks to live". Ole went home with a heavy heart to tell Lena the news. After Ole told Lena he sat in his easy chair and Lena went to the kitchen. Soon a heavenly aroma came from the kitchen. Lena was making his favorite cookies! "Lena must really love me" he thought. Ole went into the kitchen and started to take a cookie. Lena slapped his hand away and said "Get avay! Dese cookies aren't for you, der for da funeral!"


Lena passed away and Ole called 911. The 911 operator told Ole that she would send someone out right away. "Where do you live?" asked the operator. Ole replied, "At the end of Eucalyptus Drive." "Can you spell that for me?" the operator asked. There was a long pause and finally Ole said, "How 'bout if I drag her over to Oak Street and you pick her up der?"


Ole had his will made out in a very simple way. Being of sound mind I spent all my money...


One day Ole went to work with one black shoe and one brown shoe on. His co-worker Swen called his attention ot it. Oh yah, said Ole. I got another pair just like it at home.


Ole, Sven and Lars die in a tragic Lutefisk accident. They are met by God on the stairway to heaven. God says, "There are 3,000 steps to heaven. It's very serious up there. I'll tell you a joke on each 1,000th step you reach. If you laugh you go to hell." So they start walking and reach to the first 1,000th step. God tells a joke, Lars laughs out loud and goes straight to hell. Ole and Sven look at each other nervously. On the 2,000th step God tells another joke, Sven tries his best but laughs and goes to straight to hell. On the 3,000th step God tells the last and best joke, Ole doesn't laugh and proceeds to the gate. Suddenly, Ole bursts out laughing hysterically. God asks, "What are you laughing about?". Ole replies, "Oh dat's funny. I yust got da first yoke!"

Which also proves the saying "He who laughs last ... didn't get it"




ADDENDUM 2 - July 2020

Axel retired after 30 years of service with the United States Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service.

While working on his Engineering Degree at the University of Nebraska Axel did some travelling from Lincoln to Pickstown, SD on the Missouri River to work at the Fort Randall Dam project. He would become a full-time employee of the Federal government in 1948 by joining the the USDA Soil Conservation Service. This position became his career which he continued to enjoy until taking early retirement after 30 years. Feeling too young to retire but wanting the flexibility of retirement Axel went to work as a consultant for a Lincoln engineering firm, Hoskins-Western-Sonderegger, Inc. -- a job that allowed him to stay in his field, ease into the new opportunities of retirement and provide some 'extra' income for travel, etc.

When Sister Bev was going through Dad's work-related photos and papers in 2020 she wanted my and Brother James to help decide if there was anything we wanted to keep. After scanning a few of these documents I decided to add them to this page. But when I did that I realized that on this page, the "Family Tribute" which I had written and delivered in 2013, that I hadn't mentioned one word about his work career - a fact that I was somewhat surprised at because work was so important to him.

I knew that everything that I did talk about in our "Family Tribute" was true and important, and in many cases were words that he himself had wanted included in any celebration of his life. But I also knew that not mentioning his work life was a gap.

So besides adding a few examples of his work related ephemera to this page I am also adding this addendum because work was important to him, he was proud of the things that he did while working, and he had many friends and colleagues that I know got a large percentage of his 'life,' i.e., time and personal attention.

The old adage is true - you work, play, rest and sleep - and I should have mentioned more about Dad's 'work' because it was an important part of who he was and how he would have defined himself.

There were many group photos from work that he had saved from conferences and training sessions and there are a few faces that I recognize as life-long colleagues and friends. I have chosen, however, this photo from a 1963 training conference because it was a trip where we made it a family vacation with Mom, Sister Bev and myself joining Dad and staying in one of the Fort's historic officer quarters.


Axel, Row 2 Far Right











1981 resume created by Axel after his retirement from his SCS work career