Betty A. Nelson, 1936 — 2007

by Peter Sandstrom

Betty Nelson was a gracious woman who warmly touched the lives of many people. Among those who experienced her unceasing cheerfulness, gift-giving, and laughter were, first and foremost, her family. Her husband Craig, daughter Cindy, son Jon, son-in-law Bill, daughter-in-law Beth, and grandson Robbie were given the gifts of her constant love and support and ever-listening ear both during the common goings-on of everyday life and in the midst of events that were unexpected, trying, and painful. She, herself, was a gift to her larger extended family of Nelsons, McLouths, Johnsons, Meyers, and Olfelts, spread throughout Minnesota and the much of the United States. Other beneficiaries of her good nature and care were the many parishioners of the Covenant congregations that her husband, Craig Nelson, served as pastor. For seventeen years the extensive and varied community of Minnehaha Academy, whom Betty served as First Lady, was the recipient of her tireless support and always good-humored perspective. For family, congregants, and school community members Betty was the consummate hostess: her cooking and baking, her other creative efforts, and her hospitality made for a home where you were always made welcome, no matter what your station or status within the group you were with. Yet her meals, her desserts, her gifts, and her social skills were what they were because of, indeed outshone, by her capacity to show interest and love to individual persons: Betty cared about you, not simply the group you were with.

Betty was my cousin yet, because of the wide age spread across my mother’s large Minnesota farming family, Betty was always much more like an aunt to me. And what an aunt! Her presence at family gatherings was always a source of smiles, laughter, and cheer and, of course, that individual attention and concern for which Betty could be counted on. No other family member could take me aside and ask how things were really going like Betty. She was so good at it that many times she didn’t even have to ask, she would just proceed with what she knew you wanted to talk about. Betty was a constant for me throughout my life no matter what city my family happened to have moved to. When I sat by her bedside in hospice, two weeks before her death and roughly two years after her struggle with cancer had begun, I was able to tell her how wonderful it was for me as a boy when she and Craig and family would come to visit us. Those moves to different cites were usually difficult for me but I recalled for her that whenever my mother would tell me at the breakfast table that Betty was going to be there when I got home it would make even my dreary day at school shine brightly and I could barely contain my glee as I ran home in the afternoon. May God bless and keep Betty Nelson, until that great day when all us who have loved her may run home once more, with that same glee, and be with her, and with all saints departed, again.

Peter Sandstrom teaches education and is an editor of Pietisten.

See all articles by Peter Sandstrom