Thursday, September 22, 2022
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At age 98, Nellie passed away on Sept. 9 from complications following a respiratory illness.  She was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, in 1924 to parents Olive and Art Nelson and grew up in Fairfield, Iowa.  Nellie had a keen interest in art at an early age.  Her favorite subject to paint and draw was horses.  She played softball for Fairfield’s City League and worked as a lifeguard throughout high school and college.   She attended the University of Iowa, earning an extended Art degree.  Nellie supplemented her college expenses by working as an art model, waitressing, and selling her knitted sweaters.  She met her husband Joe at the university and they were married after Joe returned from serving in WWII.  After completing their degrees, Nellie, Joe, and their son Roddy moved to Bearcreek Montana in 1950, where Joe was employed as principal and teacher at the Washoe school.  The family next resided in Roberts and finally settled in Joliet.  After raising 5 children and with Joe’s passing, Nellie focused on enriching her communities.  She  played an important role in fundraising for the fledgling Carbon County Arts Guild and the building of Joliet’s new Community Center.  She took leadership roles in many local organizations:  4-H,  Joliet Jokers Saddle Club, Garden and Homemakers Club, Bridge Club, and the Joliet Christian Church.  She continued with graduate courses at Eastern Montana College and received an Education degree.  She taught Art and English at Joliet High School, Art History and Art Appreciation at EMC, and adult art classes in Carbon county.Nellie was a part time resident in the Cooke City area for some 70 summers.  She loved the alpine environment and enjoyed many friendships she and Joe made in the area.  She worked tirelessly to preserve the precious resources of the area and represent its residents.   She fund raised for Cooke City’s Community Center and Museum.  In 2006 she was chosen as Citizen of the Year by the Cooke City Community Council.  For many years she served on the board of the Beartooth Alliance, an affiliate of the Northern Plains Resource Council.  Nellie and colleagues were instrumental in the remediation and reclamation of the McLaren mine pit tailings, which in turn has helped improve the water quality and native Cutthroat spawning beds in Silver Gate and Soda Butte’s downstream rivers.  In 2012 she received the Bob Tully Spirit Award from the Northern Plains Resource Council for her dedicated work.  She was an active member of the Friends of the Beartooth All American Road, the Cooke City Chamber, Mount Republic Chapel of Peace, and helped with the Cooke City Fish Fry Fundraiser.Nellie was known for her delicious homemade pies, which fetched a high price at auctions.  She also enjoyed knitting baby hats and booties, Christmas stockings and sweaters.  She was an outstanding seamstress.  Nellie was most accomplished and known for her artwork.  She was accepted into many juried shows and her paintings won numerous awards.  She was a member of the Stillwater Society, the Painted Ladies of Red Lodge, and a life-time member of the Arts Guild Board of Directors.  She worked part-time at the Blain Gallery in Cooke City.Nellie was preceded in death by her husband Joe, their two sons Roddy and Ted, her brother Ted Nelson, nephew Danny Nelson, brother-in-law Fred Israel, and nephew Jeff Israel.Nellie is survived by daughters Jan (Alan) Craig, Penny (Noel) Keogh, and Lucy Israel (Marvin Davis);  her granddaughters Cassie Keogh Vanderburg, Kaitlin Keogh Haidle; and two great grandchildren Declan and Brynn Haidle; a sister-in-law Mary Nelson, nephews Terry and Stanley Nelson, and a niece Julie Israel Crowe. A heartfelt thank you to Desiree Pettit for her care, kindness, and love for our mother.A memorial service for Nellie will be held Sunday Sept.25 at 3 pm at the Joliet Christian Church.  Donations may be sent to the Community Centers of Joliet or Cooke City, the Joliet Christian Church, the Beartooth Alliance, or charity of your choice.


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