Hazel Marie Nelson, age 91 years of Niles, Michigan died peacefully at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, July 17, 2017 with family gathered around her bedside at the home of her daughter in Mishawaka, Indiana.
She was born Hazel Marie White on September 14, 1925 in Lynch, Kentucky, the second of 7 children to Avery and Mary Alice White. She was raised in Lynch, and always told wonderful, happy stories of her childhood there. After high school graduation in 1943, she and her mom spent the summer in Detroit, Michigan working as “Rosie the Riveters” at an aircraft assembly plant. Her family then moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to work on the Manhattan Project where she was an electromagnetic isotope separation operator.
There, she met and fell in love with one of her instructors, Richard “Dick” Nelson. They were married on August 20, 1944 in Oak Ridge at the white chapel on the hill that hosted weddings of hundreds of couples who gave that part of their lives to the war effort. After the war, and the birth of their first child, they moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Richard’s hometown. In 1955, after the birth of 2 more children, they moved to Niles for Richard’s career at the Kawneer Corporation. Soon after the birth of their last child, the family moved to England with Kawneer in 1963.
After 3 years of travel and adventures in Europe, they returned to Niles and moved to their farm on West River Road. For almost 50 years, Dick and Marie maintained a warm home that was welcoming to all. No children or grandchildren could have more wonderful memories of Christmases and summers on the farm than those so fortunate as to have Marie as their grandmother.
Over the years, Marie was active in various organizations as well as her church, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran. She was involved in the Niles Garden Club, where her work can still be seen at the historic Niles Train Station. She was a member of the Niles Chapter #332, Order of the Eastern Star, the Ilihe-tillicum, and volunteered for 40 years with the Pawating Auxiliary at Lakeland Hospital – Niles, often at the coffee bar. Later in life she rode along with her husband to deliver Meals-On-Wheels.
Marie and Dick moved to Longmeadow Assisted Living in 2010, and Marie moved to her daughter’s home in 2015.
They were sadly preceded in death by an infant daughter, Lisa Kristine Nelson, a grandson, Stephen Petruska, and by Marie’s siblings, Lewis White, Betty Taylor, Billie Simpson, Donald White, and Geraldine Addison.
Surviving family includes her children, Susan (David) Petruska of Venice, Florida, Kathee (Geoffrey) Randall of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Tamara Rzepka of Mishawaka, and Richard E. “Rick” Nelson of Niles; grandchildren Lisa (Gary) Narlesky, Jason Randall, Jeremy Randall, Katelyn (Jordan) Howell, Kristin (Matthew) Bozell, and Annalee Nelson; great-grandchildren Michael Narlesky, Anne Narlesky, and Cameron Bozell; and Marie’s brother, Robert Lee (Beverly) White of Cheyenne, Wyoming and many nieces and nephews.
The funeral service for Marie Nelson will be at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, July 24, 2017 at the Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church with the Rev. Wayne G. Shearier of the church officiating. Graveside services will follow at Mission Hills.
The family will receive relatives and friends from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m. on Sunday at the Halbritter Wickens Funeral Home in Niles. Contributions in memory of Marie may be made to the Humane Society of Southwest Michigan, or to The Center for Hospice Care.
Humane Society of Southwest Michigan Yeager Family Pet Shelter
5400 Niles Road, Saint Joseph MI 49085
Center for Hospice Care
501 Comfort Place, Mishawaka IN 46545