Gerald Anton Nielsen, Sr. owner of Sunnyfield Farm in Bedford died
suddenly on Monday February 2, 2004; he would have been seventy years old
in March. Mr. Nielsen and his wife Joanne Tammany Neilsen have owned
Sunnyfield Farm, almost three hundred acres, in the heart of Bedford's
riding country since 1976.
Colts at Sunnyfield Farm According to Gerald A. Nielsen, Jr., his father was visiting the farm when he experienced chest pains that turned out to be a fatal heart attack. "Sunnyfield was my father and mother's dream, he loved the farm and he loved Bedford", said Mr. Nielsen, Jr., "and he was doing exactly what he had always wanted".
Mr. Nielsen started out in Darien Ct. where he took over the business his parents had started in 1944 with a small flower shop and a used hearse for making deliveries and built it into the Nielsen Florist and Garden Center. He then turned his energies to The Nielsen Company, which develops commercial and residential real estate projects. His love of horseracing and his children's love of riding led him to purchase Sunnyfield Farm and to turn it into a fine breeding farm. Although the Nielsens spent much of their time in Darien, Ct. where his businesses are located, in the last few years they had been living in their Bedford residence so as to be closer to the horses especially during foaling season.
At first, under the Nielsen's ownership, Sunnyfield Farm was a show stable, for years hosting one of the top "A" rated hunter/jumper shows on the east coast but their interest in breeding thoroughbred race horses soon became the main use of the property. All of the Nielsen children were riders at one time, with daughters Sandra and Karen showing in hunters, jumpers and equitation at the highest levels. Sunnyfield is still the home of Olympic trainer Lendon Gray's Gleneden Dressage and her clients.
Gerald A. Nielsen, Sr. had just been unanimously re-elected in January to serve a third term as president of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. Joanne and Gerald Nielsen were twice voted Outstanding New York Thoroughbred Breeders, once in 1991 and again in 2001. They have bred a total of fourteen stakes winners including one of the best NY bred turf fillies of all time, Capades. Capades won $1,051,006 in her career, winning six graded stakes races and even beating colts in stakes competition.
William A. Levin, Chairman of the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development fund, commented about Gerald Nielsen: "His total commitment, dedication and tireless efforts on behalf of the New York breeding industry are recognized and will be missed. Jerry served with distinction as a Breeding Fund board member for many years and his accomplishments are exemplary. Jerry understood all the components required to advance the breeding industry in New York State".
Mr. Nielsen was a former president of the Darien Lions Club, former president of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the National Operators Council of the Howard Johnson Company, Chairman of the Darien Republican Town Committee and a member of the Country Club of Darien.
He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Joanne, his children Tamara Whittier and Gerald Nielsen, Jr. of Darien, Sandra Nielsen of Rowayton, Ct., Karen Kuehler of New Caanan and seven grandchildren. Memorial donations may be made to the Darien Lions Club, PO Box 144, Darien, Ct. 06820 or the New York Breeders Scholarship Fund, 57 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866.