November 1, 2014

Flemming Falkenberg Nielsen: 1948 – 2012

 

PHOTO COURTESY OF NANCY WILLIAMS

Flemming Falkenberg Nielsen: 1948 – 2012

Flemming Nielsen—a “great Dane”—practicing his craft as a Master Carpenter in Topanga, where he lived from 1990 until 2004.

Flemming Falkenberg Nielsen, a long-time Topangan known to his friends as the “Viking,” passed away quietly at his home near Frazier Park in the early morning hours of June 10, 2012. His wife Cindy said his last day was, for him, a perfect one. In the morning, he took off from their 5-acre ranch in his truck with his dogs to visit friends. Home again, the 50-year Master Carpenter nearly finished his last piece, a free-form dining table for Topanga native David Swenson. After a home-made dinner with Cindy, he settled in to watch a favorite Western movie, ending the day with a dish of Haagen Dazs ice cream. As he had always wanted, he died in his sleep.

Flemming was born in 1948 in Helsinore, Denmark, and was raised in the shadow of Helsinore Castle, the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, where his grandfather led the staff. In the old European tradition, Flemming entered a years-long apprenticeship working with wood, eventually becoming a Master Carpenter. After marrying his first wife Suzanne he had two daughters—Sofie and Julie—and began a life-long friendship with her brother Lars Buhl, who eventually followed him to Topanga.

The handsome Flemming, with his flowing blond hair, full beard and charming Danish growl, came to California in 1986, and in 1990 joined his friend Bruce Bryant in Topanga. Flemming rented a space at the home of Nancy and John Williams, and there began a lasting friendship with the Williams, Swenson and DeCook families.

He embraced the Topanga lifestyle, making friends throughout the Canyon. He was a welcome sight at many events, especially those featuring his favorite country and jazz stylings. He could be seen cruising the Canyon in his classic Caddy or behind the wheel of his truck with his mythically proportioned Labrador, Thor. Every Christmas season, he spent hours perfecting potent glögg for the annual tree-trimming party at the Gary Johnsons.

“Naturally,” Flemming met the love of his life and fellow free spirit Cindy Powell at Elysium Fields, Topanga’s now defunct clothing optional resort. They resided for many years in a 2-room cabin across from the elementary school that had been built as a Girl Scout retreat. The house still stands, much better for his way with hammer and saw. Flemming and Cindy were married in 1997 at the home of his second mom and favorite jazz pianist, Harriet Swenson.

When Flemming fell ill with heart disease, Dr. Doug Roy was the first to diagnose his condition and helped him seek out the best of care though he had no health insurance. This gave him many good years he otherwise would not have had.

Flemming plied his trade for years in Topanga, and his handiwork can be seen in the fine simple lines of the furnishings at Water Lily Café in Pine Tree Circle. This author is proud to possess several of his pieces, including a fireplace hearth. To make it, Flemming set a beam salvaged from the building of Pine Tree Circle over two perfectly matched tree trunks that he treated and lacquered to a fine shine. A work of art.

In 2004, wanting to own a place of their own, Cindy and Flemming moved to Frazier Park, where once again he soon became a welcome fixture. For his skill at bringing people together, he was known as the area’s unofficial mayor. Completing his journey, on May 5, 2010, Flemming became a U.S. citizen.

Flemming is survived by his wife, Cindy Powell; brother, Michael Falkenberg Nielsen; daughter Julie and her husband Henrik Holkjaer; daughter Sofie; grandchildren Magnus, Oskar, Louis, Emelia; and a canyon full of old friends. He will be remembered for his hearty laugh, his stalwart opinions, his kindly ways and his Master’s soul. His ashes will be celebrated at a service in Denmark. Memorial services have been held in Frazier Park and at Nancy and John Williams’ home in Topanga, officiated by Steve Smith, pastor of Topanga Christian Fellowship Church. From all those who loved him, we say “Skoal, Flemming!”