David Eric Nees


David Eric Nees, age 68, died peacefully at home on Monday, Nov. 1, in Evanston, surrounded by the laughter, tears and songs of his family and with his dog at his feet. Dave was a devoted husband, loving father, playful Opa, and passionate mental health professional. 

On Nov. 18, 1952, in Denver, Colorado, Dave became the firstborn of Walter and Muriel Nees. On a 3-acre parcel on the outskirts of Denver, he was taught the joy of a hard day’s work and the pride of a job well done. His childhood was bathed in Lutheran tradition and a calling to serve others. 

During high school, he met and fell in love with Debra Jean Kerr, took her to the homecoming dance and, ultimately, married her on Aug. 16, 1975. In their 51 years together, they worked side by side, shared a strong Lutheran faith and navigated peaks and valleys. The joy of their lives was to welcome three children into the world and teach them to work hard, do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. 

Dave became interested in social work starting at age 9 and spent his career providing mental health access for rural communities. He received his undergraduate degree at Valparaiso University, a Master of Social Work at the University of Nebraska and received the professional accreditation of ACSW.

He served the communities of Gunnison, Colorado; Casper, Wyoming; Lemmon, South Dakota; and Evanston. In Evanston, he rebuilt Pioneer Counseling Services to provide a broad spectrum of individual, family and community mental health services to all. He also created an innovative, community-based network of facilities and programs for chronically mentally-ill adults to live independently. In this capacity, he humbly impacted many lives.

He loved living in the mountain west, where he could fish, garden, dream up new recipes and explore the outdoors with his family. Travel expanded his horizons, and he explored the world with Debbie by his side and his adventurous children leading the way. His passion for travel increased and was fueled by an eagerness to create relationships with local people, often over a shared meal or recipe. He had an insatiable curiosity for learning new skills and hobbies throughout his life.

Following his diagnosis of lymphoma in 2010, Dave challenged himself to “live every day” and was able to do so, thanks to the excellent care he received from his team at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

He is survived by his wife, Debbie; children, Elizabeth Nees (William Engisch), Erica (Braden) Barrows-Nees and Andrew Nees (Rebecca Gobbi de Faria); grandchildren, Charlotte and Eric Engisch and Eleanor and Arlo Barrows; father, Walter Nees; and siblings, Virginia (Dennis) Zachman, Daniel (Susie) Nees and Timothy (Timi) Nees.

He is preceded in death by his mother, Muriel Ellen (Anderson) Nees.

A funeral of remembrance and celebration will be held at 10 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church on Tuesday, Nov. 9. Masks are required. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Evanston Recycling Center, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or Lutheran Services in America.

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