Marion Nelson

Marion Nelson, 92, of Maple Park passed away Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, in Champaign, Ill., where she was recently receiving care.

She was born Jan. 11, 1917, the daughter of George and Laura (Towner) Gehrke, in Prairie View, Ill.

Marion grew up in Crystal Lake, Ill., and attended local schools, graduating from Crystal Lake High School in 1934. She then worked at The Oaks, a local factory for several years before she met Eric Nelson at the Blue Moon. Over time, friendship bloomed into love over the 35 miles of road that separated their homes.

She was united in marriage to Eric G. Nelson on Aug. 6, 1949, in Crystal Lake. They began their new life together working alongside Eric’s family dairy near Elburn. She especially enjoyed feeding the small calves and all of the barn cats.

Following Eric’s passing in 1969, her son Ken continued the dairy operation for several years. In more recent years, her son David was in charge of the operation. Deteriorating health limited her ability to work on the farm and recently necessitated a move to Mattoon, Ill., to be closer to her daughter, Marge.

She was a faithful member for over 50 years of Grace Lutheran Church in Lily Lake, where she taught Sunday school for many of them.

Marion was a child of the Depression and knew the value of making the most of what you had. In that spirit, she always planted a big garden full of a vast array of vegetables, especially parsnips and green beans. When autumn came, canning was a priority, and pantry shelves were filled with the harvest of hard work. She also was infamous for her homemade apple sauce, making so much that to this day there are still jars in her freezer though the tree had died long ago.

Marion made the most of her kitchen, and the fresh-baked smell of cookies and cakes lingered long after the goodies were gone. They never stayed gone for long, however, especially when friends would drop by and she had an excuse to make her patented 20-minute coffee cake. Other family favorites included chocolate chip cookies, ginger snaps and special chocolate layer cake on birthdays.

Despite her age, Marion also enjoyed feeding the calves well into her 80s. Her love of cats also grew from her years on the farm, and in recent years, she would make oatmeal just for them.

Marion made many friends over the years, but everyone knew not to call her on Tuesday nights when she and June Reed had their weekly phone call that routinely lasted over two hours as they exchanged the latest news and gossip. A legacy of love and recipes will be passed down to the next generation who will no doubt enjoy one as much as the other.

She now leaves three children, Kenneth (Julie) Nelson of Maple Park, Marjorie (Durwin) Sanders of Mattoon, Ill., and David (Peggy) Nelson of Maple Park; six grandchildren, Dan (Heather) Nelson of Ashton, Ill., Kathy (Ryan) Gibbs of Monroe Center, Ill., Nicholas (Halley) Sanders of Paris, Ill., Neil (Erin) Sanders of Bloomington, Ill., Rebecca Nelson of Maple Park, Eric Nelson of Maple Park; one step-grandson, Gabriel (Laura) Sanders of St. Charles; five great-grandchildren; two step-great-grandchildren; many nieces, nephews with whom she was very close; and a family of friends that span generations.

She now joins her parents; husband, Eric; and three siblings, Elsie Wiese, Bess Modin and George Gehrke, who preceded her in death.
Visitation was Tuesday, Aug. 25, at Grace Lutheran Church, Lily Lake. A funeral service to celebrate her life was held Wednesday, Aug. 26, also at Grace Lutheran Church.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in her name to benefit Grace Lutheran Church. Checks may be made to the Marion Nelson Memorial and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, IL 60119. Tributes and memories may also be forwarded to the family through www.conleycare.com.