Doreen Frances (Sylvia) Nelsen

Doreen Frances (Sylvia) Nelsen, 79, died peacefully on Thursday February 3, 2022 at her home in Fairhaven from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. She was the beloved wife of 53 years of Merchant Navy Captain Dean F. Nelsen. Raised in Mattapoisett, Doreen was the daughter of Frank F. Sylvia of Mattapoisett and Mary (Benton) Sylvia of Dartmouth. Both parents are deceased.

Doreen has spent most of her adult life in Fairhaven. For 34 years she was a music teacher, before becoming Director of Fine Arts at Fairhaven Public Schools. She not only supervised music and arts teachers throughout the system, but also taught daily classes in choral music. Three generations of Fairhaven students have seen their beloved “Mrs. Nelsen” as an enthusiastic and passionate music teacher who set the bar high and demanded his best efforts. Under his creative direction, students will be remembered for many musical operettas, from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas to stunning orchestral performances. She identified talented and gifted students whom she would nurture and help throughout their musical careers.

Doreen started her own musical career at the age of 7 when she started piano lessons and was quickly recognized as being musically gifted. By age 10 she was playing concerts at Mattapoisett Grange Hall and by age 12 she was playing the organ for services at her parish church. After attending Mattapoisett Schools, Doreen graduated from Fairhaven High School in 1960. She earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Manhattanville College and a Masters degree from the Hartt School of the Arts at the University of Hartford. Doreen first taught music in New Britain, CT, and later in Wareham, Mattapoisett and finally Fairhaven where she remained for the rest of her career.

Doreen was renowned for her annual productions of the Acushnet Classic Ensemble (ACE), a summer orchestra made up of motivated student musicians recruited from across the region. Among the many free offerings for the community, Doreen created Concerts in the Park, at the Cushman Park Band Shell. She was a committed board member of FAME, the Fairhaven Association for Music Education. She was a proud member of Delta Kappa Gamma, a sorority of educators, and she was also a devoted member of the Fairhaven Colonial Club. She was honored by being listed in “The Who’s Who Among American Teachers” and in 2003 Doreen was named Fairhaven Citizen of the year. She retired from her teaching position in 2007.

Doreen is survived by her devoted husband, Captain Dean Nelsen; his beloved son, Dr. Derek Andrew Nelsen and his wife, Jen Huang, and their two sons, Owen S. Nelsen and Benjamin D. Nelsen, of Chapel Hill, NC; his two sisters, Nancy K. Paquin and Beverly J. Sylvia-Boska; and two sisters-in-law, Linda Barker of Michigan and Inez Richards of Arizona; and many aunts, uncles and cousins ​​from the Southcoast area. Doreen was the mother of the late Craig Stuart Nelsen.

Per Doreen’s wishes, she will be cremated. Due to the presence of Covid-19, no gathering will take place at this time. Friends and family will be invited to a celebration of life on Doreen’s birthday, September 26, 2022, at the Nelsens’ home in Fairhaven, weather or COVID permitting.

Please honor the kind and respectful wishes of the family to receive no calls or visitors during this time of grief and bereavement.

In lieu of flowers, donations are requested for a Memorial Music Scholarship in Doreen’s name which is hosted by her son, Dr. Derek A. Nelsen. Please mail or submit online to: The Doreen F. Nelsen Scholarship Fund for Music Education ( -fund) or checks can be mailed to PO Box 4 Fairhaven, MA 02719. The family hopes that a scholarship can be presented each year to an FHS graduate who will continue Doreen’s legacy by pursuing a career in music or music education.

Arrangements are being made by Saunders-Dwyer Home for Funerals, 495 Park St., New Bedford. For the online condolence book, please visit