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Obituary for Elly Nelson
Elverna Elizabeth (Lembke) Nelson April 26, 1922 – March 14, 2018
Our dear mother, Elverna (Elly) Nelson, passed away at the age of 95 on March 14, 2018, at Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach, Oregon as a result of aspiration pneumonia. All three of her loving children were at her bedside when she died.
Elly was born to parents Fred C. and Lydia (Carlson) Lembke on a rural homestead in Cass County, Minnesota, located between Leech Lake and Laporte. Elly had an older brother Melvin (Bud) who was born in 1917. Elly was the second of three children to survive to adulthood, her mother having previously lost a son and a daughter in infancy before Elly was born.
In 1923, Elly’s parents moved the family to a farm in Chamberlain, South Dakota. It was here in 1930 that Elly’s younger sister Colleen (Caye) was born. Elly was a good student and graduated valedictorian of her 8th grade class in 1935. After her brother Bud graduated from Chamberlain High School in 1936, Elly’s parents moved the family back to Minnesota, this time to Detroit Lakes, where Elly’s father went to work for the WPA to provide for his family during the depression. Elly went to high school and graduated from Detroit Lakes HS in 1939.
After high school, Elly completed one year of business college, and then went to work in the physicians’ office of Drs. Rutledge and Moberg in Detroit Lakes. During the war years from 1940 – 1944, Elly worked for the doctors and lived with other single young women in a boarding house on Lake Street. Early in 1944, a young, good-looking, Norwegian farm kid named Archie Giere from Hawley, Minnesota came to see one of the doctors. He also “saw” one the office receptionists, Elly Lembke. From this fortunate meeting, a romance bloomed during the summer of 1944. Archie was drafted into the Army in the fall, but the romance continued courtesy of the post office while Archie completed training. On the train trip to the west coast prior to being shipped out to the Pacific, Archie made a stop in Hawley, where he and Elly were married on January 20, 1945.
While Archie fought in the Battle of Okinawa and afterward, he found time to write his new bride 170 letters addressed to “My Dearest Elly.” Her children still have every single one of these treasured letters. While she waited for her Archie to come home from the war, Elly worked in the defense industry in southern California. Archie finally came home and was discharged from the Army in December 1945. Their married life could now begin again. Archie went to work for a paper company in Burbank, California. Elly gave birth to a son, Steven, in 1946, to a daughter, Susan, in 1954, and to a second daughter, Lisa, in 1956. The family was happy. Life was good. Then, after 12 wonderful years of marriage, Archie got cancer and died in July of 1957. Archie left behind a 35 year old widow, with three young children.
For Elly, the next four years were difficult and sad. Fortunately, Elly’s parents had since moved to southern California, where her dad had gotten a job in a defense plant. Elly and her three children moved in with her parents. With that support, Elly worked and cared for her family. In 1961, Elly met Elmer Jorgensen, a widower in the Lutheran church where Elly and her children were members. Elmer had a young son, Richard, who was a year older than Steve. The relationship between Elly and Elmer soon blossomed. So, they put their lives and families together and were married in May of 1961. The family was happy. Life was good once again. A little over 4 years later, Elmer died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 53 in July of 1965. Elly was a widow again at 43. Although Elly’s mother had died of cancer 5 years earlier in 1960, Elly’s dad was still alive. So, Elly’s dad came to live with Elly and her three children and provided the family with stability and support until he died in 1970.
In the years after Elmer died, Elly was a busy parent involved with the normal changes occurring in the lives of her growing children. Outside the family, Elly worked many years in the 1970’s as a lab tech at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, California. And, during this time, she was socially active. She went out and met people. But, in the years since Elmer’s death, Elly did not find anyone who could fulfill the promise of a lasting, loving relationship. And, it wasn’t for lack of trying on Elly’s part, either. If life was a game of baseball and getting a hit was analogous to finding someone special for the possibility of a long-term loving relationship, then it would be fair to say that Elly had several “at bats” during these years, but always managed to strike out. Nevertheless, Elly simply couldn’t “not play” the game. She loved life too much to just sit on the bench. But also, Elly was a product of that “greatest generation.” Elly’s identity as a woman was always and only manifested in full as the wife and partner of a good man in a marriage. That’s just who Elly was.
In the summer of 1980, Elly left southern California and moved to Brookings, Oregon, where her son, Steve, and his wife were living. Upon arriving in Brookings, Elly became a member of Trinity Lutheran Church and, as such, God may have had a hand in Elly’s next “at bat.” For, it wasn’t too long before Elly attracted the attention of Arthur (Art) Nelson, a soft-spoken, kindhearted Norwegian carpenter and mill worker, who was also a widower and a long-standing member of the church. God must evidently like baseball, because this time Elly connected and knocked the ball out of the park. So, for the last time in her life, at the age of 59, Elly got married to Art Nelson in October of 1981. This marriage went into extra innings. For almost the next 21 years, until Art died in January of 2002, Elly was his faithful and loving wife. They lived together happily in the country just outside of Brookings, Oregon. They bought a motor home and traveled together. They also danced and loved and went to church together. In 1989, daughter Susan and her husband Mike Ryan moved from southern California to Brookings and, at 71 years of age, Art helped Sue and Mike build their own house. In the end, when Art was suffering from Alzheimer’s, Elly lovingly cared for him at home until he died at the age of 83. After this, Elly moved into town and lived independently in her own house for 12 more years until 2014, when she moved into Seaview Senior Living Community in Brookings. In 2016, issues related to dementia made it necessary for Elly to be transferred into Seaview’s “memory care” facility, where she lived her last 2 years.
Elly lived a very full life. Mostly, she enjoyed activities involving her family. But she also enjoyed dancing (especially square dancing), playing the piano, singing in church and elsewhere, and traveling. But, Elly also had one big vice. Bingo. Elly always had numerous jam and cookie jars hidden around her house stuffed with cash for playing bingo. Moreover, Elly had an ongoing line-item in her household budget dedicated specifically for bingo. It was often in the red.
Elly is survived by her three children; son, Steve Giere and his wife, Sharlee, of Battle Ground, Washington, her daughter Susan (Giere) Ryan and husband Mike, of Brookings, Oregon, her youngest daughter Lisa (Giere) DeMaio and husband Ralph, of Valencia, California, her sister Colleen (Caye) Winter of Camarillo, California, 4 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Besides her parents, Elly was preceded in death by her brother, Melvin (Bud) Lembke in 2003.
Elly’s ashes will be inurned at Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, California, where she will finally lay at rest beside her beloved Archie. No memorial service will be held, but a possible future Celebration of Life will be announced. Cremation is under the direction of Redwood Memorial Chapel. People are invited to sign Elly’s online guest book at www.redwoodmemorial.net and share a memory. The family suggests memorials be made to a favorite charity.