Laura Nelson


Angels escorted Laura Mae (Sutherland) Nelson to heaven where she joined her husband, Leonard, just eleven weeks after his arrival there. Laura died on December 27, 2012 (exactly two weeks shy of her 94th birthday) at the Kimball County Manor where the couple had resided since May 2010.

Funeral services were held Saturday, January 5, 2013, at the Prairie West Christian Church in Potter with pastors Ed Hunzeker and Amanda Esping officiating. Burial followed at the Potter cemetery with a luncheon back at the church.

Memorial contributions may be made in Laura’s name to the Nebraska State Education Association Children’s Fund. Please make checks payable to the NSEA CHILDREN’S FUND and send to: NSEA, 605 South 14th Street, Suite 200, Lincoln, NE 68508. Cards of sympathy can be sent to: Ed Nelson, 2215 13th Avenue, Sidney, NE 69162.

Laura was born on January 10, 1919 in Petersburg, Nebraska. She was the youngest of five children born to William Edwin and Nora May (Livingston) Sutherland. Her siblings were: Leona (who died as an infant), Roy, Ethel and Roselma. Laura was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and recently a great, great-grandmother as well as a friend to all. Everyone who knew her enjoyed her ready smile, friendly nature, twinkling eyes, zest for living, and warm hugs. She modeled positive thinking, lifelong learning, heartfelt loving and worthwhile living.

From early childhood, Laura had the ambition to teach and opportunity knocked when, as valedictorian, she was awarded a full-pay scholarship to Chadron State Teachers College. After receiving her two-year diploma, she began her career in a one-room rural school in Kimball County working two years in rural schools and three in Chappell city schools.

Laura married Leonard E. Nelson on December 9, 1942. They spent three years flying for the Army and United Air Lines and then moved to Leonard’s father’s ranch, southwest of Potter. She was a busy mother of five who managed the demands of a home, a ranch, and nonstop cooking for hired hands and family. Her baking skills were legendary and she arguably baked the best homemade pie and cinnamon twists in the land! It was also normal for her to dress a chicken from the yard early Sunday mornings, get husband and five children to church and Sunday school by 9 a.m. (ish!) and have a full Sunday dinner prepared by noon. Her ambitions were many and she was tenacious in attaining her goals. In 1962, when the youngest of five entered school, she returned to teaching which was her lifelong love. She taught third grade for 23 years during which time she earned her Master’s Degree from Chadron. In addition, she was active in AAUW, NEA, NSEA, Delta Kappa Gamma, WELCA, LCW, American Legion Auxiliary, Beta Sigma Phi, Jolly Neighbors Club, Till and Tell Garden Club, and First Lutheran Church.

Laura and Leonard loved to travel taking trips to Denmark, Sweden, Alaska (an Inland Passage cruise, which was a 50th wedding anniversary gift from their children), Canada, Guatemala, as well as Germany where they attended the Passion Play in Oberammergau. But their favorite destinations were trips to see family which were plentiful and nationwide including Hawaii. With her emphasis on education, Laura made attending a grandchild’s graduation a top priority no matter where they lived. She was a constant source of inspiration for higher education to her family and her students as well.

Laura and Leonard retired from the Bar J Lazy V Ranch in 2002 after 57 years of farming (primarily wheat and alfalfa), ranching (sheep, cattle and bison) and flying (aerial spraying and flight instruction). They moved to Vista Villa in Kimball where they learned to live a new (and much slower-paced) lifestyle for eight years before relocating to Kimball County Manor.

Laura will be dearly missed by her children Edwin (Kelly) Nelson, Roslyn (Rod) Pearson, Jan Clark, Lenette (Greg) Schwinn, and Alyce (Greg) Hamilton; eleven grandchildren Chris (Helen) Nelson, Johanna Nelson (Ed Colling), Brad (Samantha) Pearson, Breanna (Casey) Dembroski, Brent (Jessica) Pearson, Melanie Brooke Pearson, Steve Clark, Jeff (Jenny) Clark, Jake Schwinn, Jenna Hamilton, and Jack Hamilton; 8 great-grandchildren Landrie Nelson, Sharissa Kershaw, Cheriee Kershaw (Ryan Gehrt), Liam Pearson, Connery Pearson, Ashlyn Laura Dembroski, Olivia Pearson, and Ethan Clark and one great, great-granddaughter Zaylee Gehrt along with many cousins, nieces and nephews.

Laura was preceded in death by her husband, Leonard Nelson (October 12, 2012) with whom she would have been married for 70 years on December 9, 2012; her parents, William Edwin and Nora May Sutherland; her sisters, Leona Sutherland, Ethel Scholes, and Roselma Hannan; and her brother, Roy Sutherland.


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