Ceres, Carol (Nelson)
PETALUMA, Calif. - Carol (Nelson) Ceres was born in Madison, Wis., to Frances and William Nelson. She lived her childhood on Nakoma Road, a Chippewa word which means "I do as I promise" and is now the namesake of her son, who was always by her side. Her sister and deepest confidant remembers she was often "artist of the week" at Henry David Thoreau Elementary School, as well as a leader on the Safety Patrol, a juxtaposition which added to her mystique throughout her life: the artistic, rebellious side rivaled only by the side that was adored and respected by authority, as she believed in providing a responsible, higher community service.
She was celebrated throughout her life for her artwork, which was deeply supported and encouraged by her loving mother. She attended the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago and after moving to San Francisco in the early 1990s, she became a member of City Art Gallery, regularly showing around town in eclectic venues with her best friend, Lisa Farrell-Dempsey. Carol will always be remembered for her stunning, multi-dimensional art, her wry and side-splitting humor, her phenomenal dinner parties as chef-extraordinaire, and her deep commitment to her community, her family, and family values.
She met her wife, Brittany Brown Ceres, in 1998 in San Francisco, at what was the phenomenon of Beach Blanket Babylon, and they were #11 in line when Mayor Gavin Newson announced gay marriage was legalized in February 2004. They were later married with family and friends surrounded that August and again following the legal trends in 2008. They chose the family name Ceres, in reference to the bounty each season bestowed, dedicated to growing together. They spent a decade in Oakland with their Lake Neighbors, where they had two children, Rhone Nakoma (born 2011) and Rakaia Aroha (born 2013), both named after rivers and indigenous guidance, reminding us to go with the flow and be in nature. Together, they moved to West Petaluma in 2017, attending Grant Elementary and finding an instant community through Carol's unique magnetism, as well as art and garden contributions.
Carol, who went by Coco in the last decade of her life, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, in her Petaluma home, surrounded by her family, just 20 days after being surprisingly diagnosed with widespread cancer of an unknown primary. She is survived by her wife and children; her mother, Frances Nelson; her sister, Susan Willis and family, Tom, Jackson, Josephine and Ike Willis; her brother, Stephen Nelson; her father and his wife, William Nelson and Susan Steingass; her parents-in-law, Roger and Jennifer Brown; her brother-in-law and co-conspirator on many creative ventures, Nathan Brown and family. Amy, Pendan and Sagan Brown; and cousins. Sarah (and Matt), Ellen, Corwin and Bryson Bishop-Clark, and Mark, Stephanie, Riley and Samuel Bishop. She is preceded in death by her aunt, Joy Wolff; and cousins, Bobby, Karen and Craig, all of Maplewood, Mo.
A community ritual and celebration of her life will be held in their Petaluma yard, in accordance with the family's earth-based faith, when it is appropriate to do so in these complex times. The family plans to create tribute spaces in nature in both Petaluma and Madison in her honor and loving memory.