Remembering Anna Marie Nelson (1930-2024)

Please share your tributes, recollections and photos in the comments section below.

Our dear mother Anna Maria Nelson went to be with the Lord on Sunday February 4, 2024 at the age of 93. She was a kind, gentle, and generous lady who loved animals and music. Although she suffered a great deal during her later years from severe arthritis and dementia, Mom continued to love her family and her cats. Her son and daughter-in-law Janis and Ed Nelson faithfully cared for her during her last years in Katy, Texas.They visited her regularly, loving and serving her in so many ways until the very .end. My brother Ed and I are grateful to the many friends who prayed for her these past few years. Ed was with her, reading the Bible to her as she breathed her last and entered into glory. All who knew her loved her.

Anna Marie at High School Graduation.

Anna Maria Nelson was born Anna Maria Johansson in Jersey City, New Jersey on August 10, 1930. She was the eldest of two children, the big sister to her brother Lennart born 4 years later. Her parents, Sven and Gunhild Johansson, were both born in Sweden and met on the boat coming over as immigrants. Although Sven had a successful career as an electrical engineer at Western Electric, his pay was greatly reduced during the Depression, and he was forced to send his wife and 2 year old daughter back to Sweden to live with Gunhild’s parents until he could afford to support them again. As a result, Anna Maria’s first language was Swedish and, amazingly, she retained her ability to communicate in that language with her Swedish relatives all her life. She spent her childhood in Cranford, NJ and later moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She met her husband Melvin Nelson when she was fifteen at a Swedish Summer Camp called Vasa Park.

Anna Maria attended Bethlehem Business College and was voted Class Beauty Queen. She and Mel married on October 9,1950 was 20 and he was 24. Their two children came along shortly: Gail was born in 1951 and Ed in 1955. After starting out at an apartment in the Styertown section of Clifton, they bought their first home in Nutley NJ. While waiting for the new home to be completed in Wayne NJ, they also lived for the better part of a year at the Johansson’s summer cottage at Vasa Park.

In 1958, Mel and Anna Marie moved into their new split level home in the Preakness section of Wayne, where they raised their kids in a lovely suburban neighborhood with a brook in the backyard and woods at the end of the street. Anna Maria was a stay-at-home Mom along with all the other ladies in the neighborhood. The Nelsons enjoyed camping with their children and their dog Flicka. Their best friends Roy and Norma Albers whom they’d know when they were all teens at Vasa Park often joined them on these camping trips as well as other family get-togethers. They enjoyed lots of laughter, cocktails, and cards.

Melvin’s parents lived in Kearny and Anna Maria’s lived in Mountainside so all holidays were spent with both sets of grandparents. Both of their parents owned summer cottages at Vasa Park and that Swedish American community was a big part of their lives for many years.

In 1967 the family moved Berkeley Heights, NJ to be closer to Melvin’s job as a chemical engineer in Plainfield. Anna Marie went to work when Gail left for college and she loved being the receptionist at Allstate. During those years, Mel got a boat, and they discovered their love for the Jersey shore where they bought a summer bungalow on 34th Street in Beach Haven. This led to Mel’s eventual career shift to marina owner, where he and and “AnnMarie” (she was officially named Anna Maria, but she and everyone else called her AnnMarie, although Pop  usually called her “Butch”) were proprietors of Nelson’s Landing, where they rented fishing boats and sold bait and gasoline. Sven Johansson, Anna Maria’s dad, loved helping out at the Marina and began to keep his cabin cruiser at their dock. Anna Maria’s mother Gunhild lived there on the property with them in a little cottage next door for many years after Sven’s passing.

Eventually repairing the 100 foot long dock after annual winter storms got to be too much, so they headed south, first to Wilmington, North Carolina and finally to their beloved Sarasota, FL. They loved life in their little house on a lagoon with their own swimming pool in the backyard. They took many cruises and enjoyed their social life with the Shriners and a local Presbyterian Church.

Mom and Pop Dancing.

They decided when they reached their 80’s to move closer to family and that brought them to Katy, TX, where they lived in their own home at the Heritage Grand Community, followed by independent living at Colonial Oaks, and finally Memory Care at the Reserve. They were together every day until Melvin went to be with the Lord at the age of 94. Mom lived another 2 years and was a favorite of all the staff at the nursing home. She had long dark hair even in her 90’s and the staff loved to braid and style her hair and paint her nails. She was a fashion plate until the very end!

Mom loved her cats with a deep and abiding passion. She also loved playing show tunes, Swedish ditties, and hymns on the organ, with Mel accompanying her on the harmonica. Some of her happiest times were when the whole extended family got together for jam sessions—she called our “family band” the Nelbo’s. She and Mel loved to dance. One of her greatest loves was chocolate, and Ed could always get an enthusiastic response when he went to visit her in the nursing home by bringing her a bag of M and M’s.

She leaves behind her son Ed and his wife Janis, her daughter Gail and her husband Jeff, 5 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. She never forgot a birthday, never spoke an unkind word about any of children or grandchildren. She was a light in all of our lives.

Gail has written many short essays about her mother (and father) and these will be included below.

You are invited to leave some words of remembrance about Anna Marie in the comments section below.

For a short (30-page) family history of the Nelsons, download and read The Memoires of Melvin Nelson (2015). Part 2 of this book also includes “Recollections” from Melvin’s family (children, grandchildren, etc.) offering an even fuller picture of his life.

View and Download “The Memoires of Melvin Nelson”

Please share your tributes, recollections, and photos in the comments section below. Gail has written several tributes to her mother and father on this site over the years. See the following entries to read more about Mel from the eyes of her daughter: