A community showed up to pay their last respects to its mayor, laying David Nygaard, 70, to rest April 16 at the First United Church of Christ, 210 E. Fourth St.
"Dave did a lot of things in this community that people did not know about, and he wanted to keep them to himself," said Glen Davis, city commissioner and former mayor. "Some were big things, and some were little things. One of the little things he did was, there was a lady here in town on a fixed income but she enjoyed playing Bingo out at the legion on Thursday nights. Dave always gave her money to go play Bingo on Thursday nights. There are several families here in town ... he would buy them groceries from time to time."
Nygaard spent more than five decades of his life serving the community through various organizations, most recently elected to the Newton City Commission in 2015 and appointed mayor this year.
"Dad loved Newton. He did his best to make it a better place," said Nichole Daniels, Nygaard's daughter. "He always said he wanted to be mayor before he died. I am glad he was able to fulfill that dream."
Nygaard was found deceased in his home by police who went to check on him April 10. Police told The Kansan Nygaard died of natural causes.
He lived a life of service — his family spoke April 16 of how giving Nygaard was during his life.
"Anything I say will not give my dad his true justice," Daniels said.
A retired U.S. Navy Force Master Chief and financial advisor/banker, he was a member and former president of the Harvey County Bankers; member, past President and former secretary/treasurer of the Newton Chamber of Commerce; member, former President and former chairman of the United Way of Harvey County; past President of Newton Junior Chamber (the year Newton was number one in the state), also serving as former Vice-President and former Regional Director; former board member of the USD 373 Board of Education, serving as president for the 1989-1990 school year; past President of Newton Rotary Club; past District Governor of District 5690 of Rotary International; former chairman of the Harvey County Historical Society; past chairman of the Newton Tourism Board; board member for the United Church of Christ; and was elected to the Newton City Commission in 2015, serving as Mayor of Newton at the time of his passing.
He was a member of various clubs and associations, including but not limited to the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Wichita State University Alumni Association and Masonic Lodge. He volunteered for Meals on Wheels; Senior Patrol; coaching many of his daughters' soccer, T-ball and softball teams.
Nygaard received many awards over the years, including Newton Chamber of Commerce Top Ambassador and Ambassador of the Year, Starks K. Vincent Award: Outstanding Local President Kansas Jaycees, Wichita State University Alumni Association Award of Distinction, Newton Recreation Commission Wellness Division Volunteer of the Year, Newton High School Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1996, David was chosen to carry the Olympic Torch when the flame passed through Newton on its way to Atlanta for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Also, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for being the best grandfather, father, husband and brother by his family.
"My dad told me one time you could measure a man by how many friends he had. Dave was really rich," Davis said.
Nygaard was born Nov. 4, 1947, in Hastings, Nebraska. The family relocated to Newton in 1962. He graduated from Newton High School in 1966, received his Bachelor of Arts in Education from Wichita State University in 1973 and Master of Arts in Education from WSU in 1974.
Nygaard joined the Navy Reserves in 1965 and served in Vietnam. He also served in Desert Shield/Desert Storm on the U.S.S. St. Louis (LKA-116). In 1997, Nygaard was selected as one of four Naval leaders in the entire U.S. Navy to help close bases on the West Coast of California.
Nygaard met LaVerna “Bernie” Ott while she was waitressing at the West Wend Cafe while taking a break from college and proposed to her two weeks later. They married on Nov. 27, 1970, at Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton. They were in a car accident in June of 1971 leaving LaVerna physically disabled for the remainder of her life. David spent their marriage caring for and supporting her. They were married for almost 45 years when she passed away in September of 2015.
Survivors include their two daughters, Nichole (Robert) Daniels of Topeka, and their sons Royce, Brody and Lucas, and Natalie (Cody) Ioerger of Manhattan, and their daughter Zoe and son Edison; sister, Joette (Charlie) Speake of Colstrip, Montana; and several nieces, nephews and their children.
A memorial has been established with The Nygaard Family Scholarship Fund in care of Central Kansas Community Foundation, 301 N. Main St., Newton KS 67114.