Fern Murray (Johnson) Nelson, age 88 of Woodbury, Minn., formerly of Joice, Iowa, passed away peacefully on Dec. 19, 2016, under hospice care at Prelude Homes and Services in Woodbury, Minn., from complications of Alzheimer’s.
A funeral service was held Dec. 27, 2016, at Sion Lutheran Church, rural Lake Mills, with Pastor Lynn Groe officiating. Pallbearers were her grandson, grand-son-in-law and four nephews. Burial was at Bristol Church Cemetery, rural Joice, Iowa.
Visitation was Dec. 26, 2016, at Mittelstadt Funeral Home, 902 East Main Street in Lake Mills.
Memorials can be directed to the Fern Nelson Memorial Fund which will then be given by the family in Fern’s name to her favorite charities. Blessed be her memory.
Fern Murray Johnson was born on a farm in Hartland Township, Worth County, RR Northwood, Iowa, on Nov. 16, 1928, to Thomas A. and Mabel (Sime) Johnson. The youngest of four living children, she was baptized and confirmed at Silver Lake Lutheran Church. She began her primary education in country school before advancing to Northwood High School where she graduated in the Class of 1946. Fern completed one year of college at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, before being enticed to teach at Heartland #6 Rural School. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Mankato State College in 1968 while teaching full time and going to evening and summer school classes.
On Oct. 23, 1949, Fern married the love of her life, Dennis Nelson, at Silver Lake Lutheran Church. After her marriage, she taught at the Bristol #5 Rural School, a short mile from where Dennis and Fern lived on the Nelson Family Farm northeast of Joice with her in-laws, Nels and Alyce (Halvorson) Nelson. Fern also taught 4th grade in Kensett Elementary School and Hanlontown prior to her 29-year tenure teaching 5th grade in the Northwood-Kensett Public Schools. She retired in 1990.
Dennis and Fern had three daughters, Deborah, born Sept. 24, 1950, Durene on Oct. 25, 1952, and Doreen on Oct. 23, 1960. Durene passed away from Neuroblastoma on March 31, 1959, at the age of six following a seven month illness.
Fern was devoted to her family and to her strong Christian faith. Professionally, she was passionate about teaching and often stated that there was never a day where she didn’t look forward to teaching her students in 41 years. She was also very active in her church, first at Bristol Lutheran Church and then Sion Lutheran Church where she maintained her membership until the time of her death.
Fern and Dennis were a popular couple, friendly, sociable, and generous with time and resources. They knew most people within a 25-mile radius of their farm. They enjoyed playing cards, golfing, fishing, going to sporting events, and travelling with friends, family or just the two of them. Dennis died of cancer at the age of 66 on April 18, 1995.
In 1996, Fern moved to Woodbury, Minn., to be closer to her daughter, Doreen and her husband, Jim Carter. She adapted well to suburban life and made many new friends while keeping in touch with her beloved former neighbors, friends, and family members back in northern Iowa.
Left to cherish Fern’s memory are daughters, Deb (Jim) Nelson Scholten of Sioux City, Iowa, and Doreen (Jim) Nelson Carter in Woodbury, Minn.; granddaughters Jessica (Mike) Scholten Ganley in Edina, Minn., and Caroline Carter at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire; grandson, J.D. (James Dennis) Scholten in Seattle; and twin great-granddaughters, Lauren and Stella Ganley from Edina, Minn. Survivors also include Fern’s brother Wallace Johnson and nephew Tom (Liz) Johnson all from Centennial, Colo.; niece Susan (Jay) Johnson Bergan in Greenwood Village, Colo.; sister Blanche Hogen, Manly, Iowa; niece Renita (Dean) Hogen Wieland from Independence, Iowa; and nephew John (Karen) Hogen in Mason City, Iowa; nephews Tom (Brenda) Wallace, Herndon, Va., and Scott (Susan) Wallace, Odenton, Md.; and a brother-in-law VeRone (Bonnie) Nelson of El Dorado Springs, Mo. She is also mourned by many friends, former students, and Sime and Johnson cousins.
Fern was preceded in death by her husband Dennis (1995) and daughter Durene (1959), parents Tom (1977) and Mabel (1989) Johnson, sister Mardell (Mardy) Johnson Wallace (1999) and brother-in-law, Ira O. Wallace (2004), a younger infant brother, brother-in-law Arnold Hogen (2007), sister-in-law Shirley Helvick Johnson (2010) father-in-law Nels Nelson (1958) and mother-in-law Alyce Halvorson Nelson (2003).