Juanita Nelson
1923 - 2015
Eternal Blessings Crematory
286 Tubbs Drive
Guilford, VT
GREENFIELD - Juanita (Morrow) Nelson, 91, died peacefully following a period of declining health on Monday, March 9, 2015, at Poet's Seat Health Care Center in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Heralded as a lifelong activist and pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement and the organic farming and simple living movements, Juanita was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 17, 1923, the daughter of Eula Jean (Middlebrooks) Morrow and Oscar Morrow, Sr. 
Juanita graduated in 1941 from Cleveland's Central High School and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C.  She served as secretary of the university's NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and experienced her first arrest for civil disobedience while protesting lunch counter segregation in our nation's capitol. In 1943, she enrolled in Western Reserve University, majoring in journalism, and worked as a reporter for the Cleveland Call & Post. In that role, she met her lifelong partner, Wally Nelson, while working on a story about segregated conditions in the jail in which Wally was awaiting trial as a conscientious objector.
Juanita worked with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) on both local and national levels. In 1948, Wally and Juanita refused to pay taxes for war and military preparations and helped found Peacemakers, a pacifist group that took its name from the biblical Beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers ..." The group advocated non-payment of federal war taxes, non-registration for the military draft, and the promotion of nonviolence in all areas of life.
In 1950, the Nelsons became part of an integrated household in Cincinnati, Ohio, which led to tensions within a neighborhood where segregation was the norm. In 1955, Juanita earned a degree in speech pathology from Ohio State University, motivated by the fact that this would allow her to work on a contractual basis without withholding taxes.
The Nelsons moved to Philadelphia in 1956 and lived in Powelton Village, a culturally diverse and historic neighborhood. They spent four months at Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia, which had come under attack for refusal to discriminate based on skin color. Shots were fired into the community during the Nelsons' stay. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Juanita was arrested several times due to activities connected with tax resistance and civil rights protests. 
With Wally, Juanita began her farming life in 1970 when they moved to Ojo Caliente in northern New Mexico. Fueled by a desire to live more simply in the face of U.S. war in Vietnam and to be less involved in the economic milieu that spawns war, they made their living by growing and selling produce and attempting to become as self-sufficient as possible. They learned to heat and cook with wood, preserve food, and make their own soap.
Their 1974 move to Woolman Hill, site of a Quaker conference center in Deerfield, MA, brought the Nelsons to the Pioneer Valley, where they became mentors to many people, young and old. Granted lifetime use of a small plot of land, the Nelsons built a compact home with no electricity or running water and received permission from the town to build an outhouse.
Juanita authored many articles and poems, as well as the 1988 book, A Matter of Freedom. She and Wally helped found the Valley Community Land Trust, Pioneer Valley War Tax Resisters, and the Greenfield Farmers' Market. After Wally's death in 2002, Juanita hatched the idea for the Free Harvest Supper, held in Greenfield, which has become a major community event in late August of each year.
A longtime advocate of local food, Juanita challenged attendees at the 2006 Free Harvest Supper to eat locally, not just when it was convenient but year round. This challenge spawned Winter Fare, the first winter farmers market in Massachusetts. The idea soon spread throughout the Commonwealth.
For the last several years, Juanita lived with a series of close friends, including Eveline MacDougall, Ellie Kastanopolous, and, most recently, Betsy Corner, Randy Kehler, and Kip Moeller.
Juanita was pre-deceased by her partner Wally Nelson and her brothers Charles Morrow and Oscar Morrow, Jr. She is survived by many nieces, nephews, and cousins in Ohio, and by a large national and international family of friends and fellow travelers. She will be sorely missed by many.
End-of-life arrangements are being handled by the Eternal Blessings Cremation Service in Guilford, Vermont.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Valley Community Land Trust, Box 1552, Greenfield, MA 01302, and to the Wally and Juanita Nelson Scholarship Fund at Greenfield Community College, c/o GCC Foundation, 270 Main Street, Greenfield, MA 01301.
A memorial celebration of the life of Juanita Nelson, who died on March 9, 2015, will be held in the Greenfield Middle School auditorium at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 30.
The memorial will be preceded by a New Orleans jazz-style funeral procession from the Greenfield Farmers Market at the Town Common to the middle school at 195 Federal St. Those wishing to join the procession should meet at the Town Common at 12:30 p.m. The procession will arrive at the middle school at approximately 1:30 p.m.
A memorial celebration of the life will be held in the Greenfield Middle School auditorium at 2 p.m., Saturday, May 30.
The memorial will be preceded by a New Orleans jazz-style funeral procession from the Greenfield Farmers Market at the Town Common to the middle school at 195 Federal St. Those wishing to join the procession should meet at the Town Common at 12:30 p.m. The procession will arrive at the middle school at approximately 1:30 p.m.
Published by The Recorder on Apr. 29, 2015.
To plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.
To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Funeral services provided by:
Eternal Blessings Crematory
Add a Message

Not sure what to say?

16 Entries
Valenda Newell
August 10, 2016
Juanita and Wally inspired many young people on retreat at Woolman Hill and older Catholic Workers and Tax Resisters from Haley House, Boston. Every moment in their company was a good moment. May the Peace and Activism they shared with many perpetuate.
Susan and Bill Fitzgerald
April 29, 2015
I did not know Juanita personally but knew of her and saw her as a truly righteous being. We have lost one of our best and she will be sorely missed. RIP Juanita.
Geri Manning
April 29, 2015

When Juanita was a little girl
train-traveling from Cleveland south,
at the Mason Dixon line,
a conductor made her move
to the Jim Crow car. She
then proceeded to move
forward and sit in every single
white car until she had made
her courageous point.
In the 1950's she participated
in sitins at Washington DC
restaurants and was arrested.
She was a lifetime war tax
resister, refusing to give any
of her money to enable the violence
of war. She set up community dinners
in which those who could brought
food offerings, and those who could
not were able to eat.
Juanita met Wally Nelson when
she, a reporter at Cleveland's
Call And Post newspaper, was
assigned to meet a group of
WW2 conscientious objectors
who had called the paper about
the segregation at the Cuyahoga
County jail. They never felt they
needed the state to ratify their
relationship. One morning at 6am
she heard knocking at her door. It
was the FBI there to arrest her
for not paying taxes. They told
her to go get dressed. She,
believing in noncooperation with
the police, refused to change from
her robe.

She died this month.
Thank you Juanita, for being.

MKJ, 2 decades younger, narrated
the events in this story.
Saiom Shriver
March 21, 2015
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
March 16, 2015
love you, Juanita !!

may you rest in peace and may the spirits of you and Wally with us always ...

Gary Pontelandolfo
Winsted, CT
March 14, 2015
Thanks to Juanita and Wally and the Peacemakers a simple living community was formed near Spencer, West Virginia in the 1970's. The community still exists. Juanita profound influence in my life. Here is a link to Juanita's great war tax resistance story. http://www.nwtrcc.org/matter-of-freedom.php
Robin Wilson
March 14, 2015
Peace be with you, Juanita. Thank you for all your good work. Your legacy will continue to feed us, literally, for as long as the soil is rich. Blessings to your friends and family.
Sita Lang
March 12, 2015
Living the life she wanted to improve has always been a part of Juanita's lifestyle. She made a difference and we loved her for her commitment. As a cousin, aunt, in-law, we stayed in touch with her and thru her with each other. We will miss her from our family circle.
shirley & edward crosby
March 12, 2015
Juanita's humor, intelligence, commitment and compassion changed my life. I still read-and re-read her essay "A matter of freedom" http://www.nwtrcc.org/matter-of-freedom.php. I will always remember their garlic, Juanita and Wally dancing around the cabin-to Sweet Honey in the Rock on a Sunday morning; ginger ice-cream; cornbread; pie. They both exemplified what it means to be a human being; and to live true to your values. I am fortunate and grateful to know and be inspired by Juanita and Wally for decades. I bet Nita and Wally are dancing now. I am glad they are together again. The world needs more like them.
Lori Barg
March 11, 2015
I didn't know the Nelsons but I always found them to be inspiring characters. I remember them standing at the corner of Main and Conway many a year with signs saying, "Don't Pay War Taxes" which was a brave gesture in a little town like Greenfield.
Chris Devine
March 11, 2015
For Juanita, Family, and Relations,
I light a candle tonight for you and sing...
Such a lasting legacy for many generations to come, so many here learned and were inspired by you, that you live and breathe in us and through us. You will not be forgotten! Love and peace...
Beth MacDonald
March 10, 2015
Our heartfelt condolences to the family.Draw close to God and he will draw close to you during this period of bereavement. For a life well lived thank you for sharing her with us.
March 10, 2015
You have served well. Rest In Peace.
Agnes Shepperson
March 10, 2015
Please accept my deepest condolences. No matter our race or background, we all look forward to a world without prejudice when each of us will view others as our Creator does. Acts 10:34, 35
March 10, 2015
Godspeed, Ms. Nelson. I read about you often in the newspaper while growing up in Greenfield and admired your sense of right and wrong.
Mary Harrington McLellan
March 10, 2015
Showing 1 - 16 of 16 results