In Memory

Virginia Garland (Nielsen) - Class Of 1942

Virginia Garland (Nielsen)

Virginia Garland Nielsen, age 80, philanthropist and spirited volunteer, died of cancer January 28, 2005 at her home. A La Jolla resident for nearly 50 years, Mrs Nielsen touched many segments of the community with her spirted volunteerism, much of it while raising a family as a judge's wife.

In the late 1960s she served twice as chairwoman of the annual Jewel Ball, a charity fund-raiser staged by Las Patronas. She volunteered as a pink lady at Scripps Memorial Hospital-La Jolla and served on the La Jolla Planning Commission and the county grand jury.

Despite a heavy agenda of fund-raising and civic functions, she seemed to have the right outfit for every occasion. "She was one of those people who, no matter where she was or what she was doing, was considered among the best dressed around," her daughter said. "She was known for her elegance and classic styles."

A staunch Republican, Mrs. Nielsen was active in political campaigns as a volunteer for the Republican National Committee. She campaigned over the years for such candidates as Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. On women's issues, she sometimes found herself on the other side of the political spectrum. "She felt strongly about women's rights," her daughter said. "She was pro-choice and supported Planned Parenthood."

Mrs Nielsen was born in South Pasadena August 11, 1924 and graduated from South Pasadena High School in 1941 and joined the newly formed  women's reserve of the Marine Corps the following year to help support the World War II effort at home. She enrolled in 1945 at the University of California Berkeley and graduated four years later with a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture.

Her first marriage produced three sons and ended in divorce. Fond memories of San Diego vacations and friends in the area prompted her to move to La Jolla as a single mother in 1957. She met future US District Court Judge Leland Nielsen through mutual friends and the couple married in 1958. Applying her design skills, Mrs Nielsen created the landscaping around the couple's first home in La Jolla. In 1977 when the family moved to a home north of Windansea, she designed the patio and reconfigured the landscaping.

One of her proudest accomplishments was 21 years of sobriety as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, her daughter said. In 2002 she was diagnosed with throat cancer. She kept rallying, never losing her sense of humor and dignity. Survivors include her daughter, Christina Nielsen of Alexandria, Virginia, and sons Paul Douglass Jr of Reno, Nevada, Barton Douglass of Boise, Idaho, and Landy Douglass of Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida, and seven grandchildren.

San Diego Union-Tribune, February 10, 2005