March 4, 1912 - July 2, 2013
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Helen Carey Nelson, 101, loving mother of 5, talented and dedicated teacher, died peacefully at St. John of God Care Center, July 2nd, 2013. She was preceded in death by her husband, John W. Nelson and son William H. Nelson.
Born March 4th, 1912 in Little Rock, Arkansas, she moved to L.A. when she was 11. Always a gifted student, she graduated from Catholic Girls' High School at 16 followed by graduation from UCLA in 1932 with a BA in English. She worked her way through college by being the Women's Editor of the Daily Bruin and then jumping on the red car to her job downtown at the LA Times.
After John and she were married, they settled in Pasadena. Helen began to fulfill her dream of having a large family. For each child Helen was either a Brownie, Girl, or Boy Scout leader and room mother. Her kind, gentle and organized ways along with a wonderful sense of humor made her President of most of the PTAs she joined. At one time she was in 5 different PTAs!
At 50, she received her Masters in Education and began teaching 2nd grade at Oak Grove School. She received several teacher of the year awards and her innovative teaching projects were frequently reported in the local papers. Her love of teaching persisted even after she retired. She tutored until she was 98 specializing in those with attention deficit disorders and dyslexia.
She was an incredible role model for family, friends, and students. She loved to read, travel, do word puzzles, and play bridge. She kept in physical shape by taking a long walk each day until she was 98. Her youngest son would give her a new set of bar bells every few years to help her keep in shape.
While these things contributed to a long life, she said the secret was to help others on a daily basis. She not only participated in formal organizations for helping like Meals on Wheels, but she developed her own network and ways to help people on a one to one basis.
She kept lists of people who were sick, or lonely, or dying or those with some loss. Each night she would reach out to 5-10 on her list to make sure they had some cheer in their day and to see what she could get for them.
When she moved to the Oaks retirement home in Pasadena in 1998 she was a one person welcoming committee. In addition, everyday she would visit people who for one reason or other could not come down for meals. She was a devout Catholic who said as long as you concentrate on helping others, you don't feel all your own aches and pains.
Her life is an inspiration to her children who survive her: Margery Thais of Laguna Niguel, Gary Nelson (Diane) of Carmel Valley, Melinda Wells (Win) of Hancock Park, and John Nelson of San Diego. Grandma is also survived by grandchildren: Kim Thais Parker (Brian), Susan Nelson Gouveia, Linda Nelson, Stefi Thais, Hayden Thais, Eric Wells, Amanda Wells Lovrien (Chris) and honorary granddaughter Melissa Leasure (JP); and finally the very lucky great-grandchildren who were blessed to have had GG in their lives for such a long time: Holly, Jack & Amelia Parker, April Faulkner, Sam Gouveia, Matteo and Massimo Iannacccio, and Atlas and Mieke Wells. Much thanks and gratitude to Carmen and Elvie who made Helen's life at the end so comfortable.
Memorial Mass will be held Friday, July 19, 2013, 12:00 Noon, at St. Brendan Catholic Church, 310 South Van Ness Avenue, L.A., CA 90020. Donations may be be made to Children's Hospital LA, 4650 Sunset Blvd., L.A., CA 90027.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from July 14 to July 18, 2013