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Nancy Nielsen, a self-described “lifetime learner,” devoured books, kept up with current events, was active politically and always enjoyed a lively and informed conversation. She had a weakness for good chocolate, was partial to cats, and faithfully followed the NBA. Our sturdy little Swede endured as long as possible. She passed away February 12, 2020. She was 94.
Nancy Ellen Collison was born on January 19, 1926, on a farm northwest of Whiting. She was the first child of Jesse O. Collison and Margaret Gustafson Collison. Her sister, Gloria, joined the family Aug. 13, 1929. Nancy attended a one-room country school until 4th grade, when the family moved to town.
Nancy enrolled at the University of Iowa in 1944. After three years, she accompanied her family to Denver, where her father, a WWI veteran, was treated in the VA Hospital. While there, she applied and was accepted as a United Airlines stewardess. She met and married Tom Staley in Denver, and they moved to Medford, Oregon, where his parents had retired. On Sept. 14, 1951, their son Eric was born. Daughter Liz arrived March 25, 1955.
Nancy divorced and moved to Sioux City, completing her degree at Morningside College and teaching at Whittier Elementary. In 1959, she married Wilbur Nielsen, and the family moved to Onawa, where he based his construction company. They had two children, Bill, born Feb. 7, 1965, and Anna, born Sept. 9, 1966.
Family came first. Mom was den mother for Eric’s Cub Scout troop and Camp Fire leader for Liz’s troop. She took the gun-safety course with Bill when he was 12 (they were the only two to ace the final exam), and she supported Anna as she tended her horse Molly. She shared her love of reading with her children, and she was our fiercest defender and supporter as we grew up.
She was also active in the community. At Faith Lutheran Church, she served as a deaconess, was treasurer for WELCA, and taught Sunday School and Bible School. She was a member of Onawa’s Planning and Zoning Board. She substituted at West Monona HS and then worked full time as a teacher’s aide for special-needs students.
Nancy enjoyed the outdoors, often touring the Loess Hills. Her travels extended to Sweden, where she met relatives. She savored trips to Philadelphia (Gloria & Dez) and to visit her grown children.
Nancy loved antiquing with buddies and enjoyed a good find and good friends. Her home reflected her taste, a mixture of family heirlooms, Gloria’s artwork and Loess Hills pottery. She regularly hosted large family dinners, and her roast beef, scalloped potatoes and homemade pies were legendary.
Author readings, art galleries, museums and documentaries — these brought joy to Mom and her innate curiosity. She studied Native American cultures and admired Scandinavian art and Craftsman architecture. She researched our family history and carefully documented handcrafted and personal items from our ancestors.
Mom was the first to say that her long life was fulfilling, and indeed she made the most of it.
Nancy is survived by her children, Eric Nielsen, Liz McClure (Patrick), Bill Nielsen (Jodie) and Anna Wohlert; grandsons, Keith McClure, Brett and Vince Nielsen and Andrew Wohlert; niece Mara Bacsujlaky; and cousins Julie Heumann and Dorie Levine.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 A.M. Saturday, July 11, 2020 at Faith Lutheran Church in Onawa, Iowa with Pastor Marsha Smith officiating. Burial will be in the Whiting City Cemetery, Whiting, Iowa. Arrangements are under the direction of Rush Family Care Service, Onawa, Iowa. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Loess Hills Preservation Society or Faith Lutheran Church.
Condolences may be left online for the family at www.rushfamilycareservice.com