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Nerene Steele Douglass

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Nerene Steele Douglass Obituary
Douglass, Nerene Steele
Nerene Steele Douglass, 97, died on Wednesday evening, August 12, 2015 at her home in Mesa. She was a Lehi girl: by birth, by childhood upbringing, by church and school, and by family history tied to the Mormon community north of Mesa below the hill and close by the Salt River, founded by her great grandfather Daniel Webster Jones, who led the first company of Mormon settlers there in March 1877, a year before Mesa was founded by another company of Mormon settlers. The daughter of Thomas Steele and Vina Brady Steele, she was born on January 5, 1918 in an adobe house built by her parents on the 40 acres they homesteaded on the northwest corner of what today is called Gilbert Rd. and McKellips Rd. Before Alzheimer's in recent years corrupted a large part of her memory, she remembered vividly and with relish her growing up in Lehi, her going to grammar school and attending church there, and her life as a girl on the family farm. Lehi has long been absorbed by Mesa, but it was once a discrete community and friendly rival of Mesa, whose denizens dubbed it Mud Town, driving home their belief that in comparison with Mesa, Lehi was a rural backwater. Nerene demurred. She never forgot her roots in Lehi soil. In her memory Lehi was a garden, a kind of oasis. Her father had planted numerous trees, including citrus and pecan trees. She remembered that one pecan tree, watered copiously by an irrigation ditch that ran along the east side of their 40 acres, had over the years grown to gargantuan size and spread a dappled shade over their fairly expansive front yard. It reigned over its corner of the homestead for many decades until, sadly, in recent years it was uprooted and carded to the dump by the City of Mesa to widen Gilbert Road. The years made many other inroads into her childhood idyll but her loyalty to place never wavered. Then it was a green place with much shade. Under the sun, crops and fruit trees and shade trees grew rank in the rrigated fields. Ancient cottonwood trees with gnarled trunks and limbs lined the south side of McKellips Rd. stretching from Gilbert Rd. to Horne Rd., spreading shade over the road and giving a measure of coolness to those, like Nerene, who had occasion to walk under them on hot summer days. But that was then, before SRP, in the fifties, pinning the label "weeds" to cottonwood trees, commenced an utterly successful campaign to eliminate them throughout the valley. Not one of the McKellips cottonwoods survived the campaign. Lehi was the worse for it: No more giant trees to temper the heat or to add beauty to the landscape. Nerene also remembered the old brick church house that her father helped to build at the corner of Horne and Lehi, across the street from the old Lehi Elementary School. It was the center of community life � the social as well as the religious center. Her mother, who was keen on the theatre, played parts in plays that were staged in the church basement. Nerene attended dances there. People of the community worshiped as well as danced there. Though she grew up during the depression years, Nerene did not remember the poverty, the tattered hand-me-down clothes and the like as much as, say, the plentiful food, most of it grown on the farm, and the family piano, acquired before her birth in more prosperous times, around which the family would sometimes gather to sing popular songs to piano accompaniment provided by her or her sister Sylvia. Nerene was the widow of Bedford Douglass Sr. whom she married in 1941. They had three children: David Steele Douglass, Bedford Douglass Jr. and Sylvia Robinson. David and Bedford live in Mesa and Sylvia in Logan, Utah. Nerene is also survived by nine grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. For years she worked for the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co. in Mesa. She and her husband, a druggist, opened the first drugstore in Apache Junction in 1958. After five years they closed that store and later, in 1964, opened another drugstore in Pinetop, Arizona, which they operated for five years. They then moved back to Mesa where they lived out their days. Her funeral services will be held at Meldrum Mortuary, 52 N. Macdonald, Mesa, AZ 85201, at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, August 18, 2015. Viewing will be at Meldrum's just before the funeral, starting at 10:00 A.M.

Published in The Arizona Republic on Aug. 16, 2015
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