Howard Nicholas Thelen

Howard Nicholas Thelen

July 27, 1936-October 2, 2023

Howard Nicholas Thelen, also known as “Howie,” was born July 27, 1936, in Carroll, Iowa, and passed away October 2, 2023, at Ridgewood Senior Living Center in Bennington, Nebraska. He attended St. Bernard Grade School and High School in Breda, IA. Howard served two years in the Army and attended Iowa State College.

Howie was the oldest son of a farmer, born to Fred and Matilda Thelen. The farm was located just outside of Breda, Iowa. He had eight brothers and sisters who worked on the farm, milking cows, and doing chores. This is where he learned how to work.

He soon realized that farming was not what he wanted to do. After High School he enlisted in the Army for two years. The Army realized he had clerical skills, he could type, and that Howie was great at math. The Army eventually gave him a taste of the science of land surveying. After the Army he came back to Breda. He went out for a night on the town, at the Starline Ballroom in Carroll, when he met one fine woman, named, Charlene Danner. While dating Charlene he decided to go to Iowa State to study surveying, which he did for one year, until he fell in love with his sweetheart and decided to get married. Howie realized that supporting a family while going to college was not an option. A job offer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was on the table. He took the job, married his sweetheart, and moved to Onawa, IA.

Two more relocations, four kids, and four years, later Howard Thelen and family were on their way to Omaha, NE. They moved to Omaha in 1966, driving a blue ‘64 Ford with four kids, three in the back seat and one lying down under the back window. He purchased his first house at 4230 North 92 Avenue, where he and mom raised three “hell fire” boys, and one sweet girl. Howie was home every night, tired from the day, but would play with his kids and always made time for them. He was a father, not a best friend. He taught, disciplined, hugged, loved, and most of all spent lots of quality time with his kids. A better Father has never been made! He was a gentleman, who loved Charlene and treated her like a Queen.

At the Corps, he started out on the bottom like most of us do, but Howie was not an average individual. Without a four-year degree, he worked his way up the ladder, eventually landing at the U.S. Army Corps. Division, where he oversaw over 1,700 Engineers. His problem-solving skills, and money saving policies were recognized by the Top Brass in the Army. He received the Commanders Award for Civilian Service at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., from Casper Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, in 1987, for saving the government over one million dollars on one project.

Howie was not all work. He loved to play golf (even got his picture taken with Arnold Palmer), hunt, and fish with his boys. Most of all, he loved to go to his cabin on the Missouri River, where he enjoyed over 40 years of weekends with his family; boating, sitting on a sand bar with a beer in his hand, taking care of the land, and fixing whatever needed to be fixed. Howie and Charlene were dedicated members of St. Elizabeth Ann Catholic Church. They attended church every Sunday until they were unable to do so because of health.

In 1987, he built their first new house, and moved to 6411 North 106 Street. They lived in the home until earlier this year, when they moved to Ridgewood Senior Living Center, where Dad went to be with the Lord, October 2, 2023.

Howie was preceded in death by his parents, Fred and Matilda; sister, Mary; brother, Gary.

Howard is survived by his beautiful wife of 64 years, Charlene Marie Thelen; three sons and one daughter: Brian (Pat) Thelen, Lori (Jeff “Barney”) Ahlers, Jeff (Noreen) Thelen, and Scott “Scooter” Thelen; grandchildren:  Michaella, Kelly, Angela, Rebecca, Sam, Anna, Nicki, Jesse, Jena, Trevor, Jamie; 20 great-grandchildren.

VISITATION: Thursday, October 5, 2023, 5-7 p.m. at the West Center Chapel, followed by a VIGIL SERVICE: at 7 p.m. MASS OF CHRISTIAN BURIAL: Friday, October 6, 2023, 10:30 a.m., St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, 5419 N. 114th St. INTERMENT with Military Honors: Thursday October 12, 2023, 1:30 p.m., Omaha National Cemetery, 14250 Schram Rd. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To view a live broadcast of the Service, please go to and click the “Live Cast” button.


  • Connie White Posted October 3, 2023 3:12 pm

    Howie… So many memories. Between your cabin, bowling, or meeting at Jerry’s Bar we always had a great time. He had the best smile with that fun giggle. My heart is with you, Charlene, Brian, Lori, Jeff and Scooter though this difficult time. Hugs and Love Connie & Gary

    • lori ahlers Posted October 4, 2023 1:03 pm

      thank you Connie and Gary. I read to mom and she appreciated your writing.

  • Rosemary and Bill Butler Posted October 5, 2023 8:44 am

    Praying for comfort and peace to the Thelen Family.. Keep your memories close to your heart and continue to share that Love as you navigate this tough time.

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