Monday, June 28, 2010

Eunice Elizabeth Johnson Nelson

Eunice Elizabeth Johnson Nelson
October 18, 1917 to May 23, 2010
My maternal grandmother passed away about a month ago at age 92, and I wanted to put down some of my memories of her just like I did for my grandfather. I remember Grandma Nelson as the grandma who would drive to town with Grandpa in the Chevy Impala with a 9 x 13 pan of applesauce brownies on the seat. We would always meet them at the Nut Tree, which was about an hour away from home and seemed like The Longest Ride In The World. She was there to take care of the family each time there was a new baby. She bought me crocheted hair ribbons and pink clothes. My favorite thing to do with grandma was to go on a really long walk and get lost in Piedmont. I thought it was so exciting, and if she did know where we were, she never let on.
This was the picture used for her LDS missionary farewell. She served in Portland, Oregon and before she left, her brother cautioned her not to let on that she knew how to type, or she would be stuck in the office. She lasted about three months before she was found out, and then she did indeed serve in the office, as the missionary in charge of the Primary program (for the kids), corresponding and meeting with the local leaders and encouraging them and sending them materials.
It was there that she met my grandfather, who was training as a diesel engine mechanic. He asked and was granted permission to take Eunice and her companion out to the movie. He sat between them. Once the movie began, he wanted to hold her hand, but with the companion there, he didn't know what to do. So he held both their hands!
Leo and Beth's wedding day. Salt Lake, 1942?
Grandma was also famous for winning. As mentioned at her funeral, it didn't matter if the game was based on skill or luck, Grandma would always win. In later years, I remember her sleeping through everyone else's turn only to wake up and win the game.
Occasionally her winning streak resulted in moral quandaries. Like the time she won a case of champagne since she didn't drink alcohol. Or the time she played bingo on Sunday and won -- she dithered about whether she should pay tithing on the winnings.

The Leo and Beth Nelson family, circa 1957.
In 1981, grandma was driving home from her job at the Beehive Clothing Center in Portland where she'd worked for 28 years. It appears that she fell asleep at the wheel while making a left-hand turn and ran into a telephone pole. She broke both femurs, shattered a wrist, an elbow, and broke her ribs in 12 places. It was fairly certain that she wouldn't survive.
When my grandfather called with the news, my dad was in Venezuela, and my mother packed up four kids in the Ford LTD and drove up to Portland. We stayed for 5-6 weeks that summer. I guess now that my mom cooked and cleaned and visited the hospital and that we children were loud distractions from the tragedy. I remember that at 11, the nurses thought I was old enough to go in and see my grandmother in ICU (the sign said no one under 12). I walked in and saw her hooked up to all of the monitors, tubes and wires and recall thinking "No. I'm not old enough for this at all." I spent hours gluing the get well cards into huge scrapbooks for her and weaving tiny satin ribbons into barrettes as was the fashion.
Grandma slowly recovered and moved to a care facility and home again in November. She got out and about first with a wheelchair, then with a walker, and finally with a cane what grandpa always gallantly brought her from the trunk of their teal Buick. Though she had consistent health problems and complications from then on, I don't think anyone was surprised that Beth outlived Leo by 16 months. Life is just another game of luck and skill.
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Jessica said...

I think I see the family resemblance.

Nedra said...

Thanks for a grand writeup.
Love, MOM