Martha Whitehead Nelson
Martha Whitehead Nelson, age 96, of Grants Pass, Oregon died Thursday, August 15, 2013 at her home.
A funeral service will be at 11:00 a.m., Friday, August 23, 2013 at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 748 NW 5th Street, Grants Pass with Pastor Steve Parker officiating. Interment will follow at Hillcrest Memorial Park. Hull & Hull Funeral Directors are in charge of arrangements.
Please sign the family guest book at www.since1928hull.com.
Contributions may be made to the Youth Endowment Fund at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 748 NW 5th Street, Grants Pass, Oregon 97526 or Josephine Community Libraries (JCLI), PO Box 1684, Grants Pass, Oregon 97528.
Martha Whitehead Nelson was born November 26, 1916 on a farm near Brookings, South Dakota, in the house her father built. She was the second child of six. The farm has remained in the family, but it was rented out for many years. Because the humid climate aggravated her father’s asthma, the family moved to another farm in the Black Hills near Rapid City, South Dakota. Martha graduated from Coolidge High School there in 1935. She went to the South Dakota School of Mines in Rapid City for one year and then to Spearfish Normal School to achieve a teaching certificate.
Martha then taught the primary grades in Owanka, South Dakota for four years. There, she met Walter B. Nelson, who was the Superintendent of Schools at Owanka. They married on May 12, 1940. She was allowed to teach one more year at Owanka although it was not the practice to hire married women as teachers at that time.
Martha and Walt moved to Rapid City where Walt taught in the high school. Their first child, Karen was born on November 21, 1941. With the outbreak of World War II, Walt entered the Navy, and Martha remained with their daughter in Rapid City.
After the war, the family moved to Grants Pass, Oregon. Walt taught at Grants Pass High School, and Martha taught third grade and then second grade until 1950, when their second child, Lowell, was born. Martha stopped teaching then until Lowell was of school age.
In 1956, Martha returned to teaching. She taught second grade at Highland School. She also took evening and summer classes at what was then Southern Oregon College of Education until she completed her degree.
Walt Nelson started what became Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union in 1954 in their home. By 1970 the credit union had grown large enough to afford its own building. Their first office outside the Nelson home was at the corner of Seventh Street and Manzanita Street. Walt was very proud of this accomplishment, but unfortunately, he was not able to enjoy this for long. Walt Nelson died on June 6, 1970.
Martha went on teaching at Highland School until the age of 65, retiring in 1981.
Martha was active in her church as Deacon, Elder, Sunday school teacher, and as a member in Mariners, Womens’ Association, and the Parish Group. She was a member of Josephine County Retired Educators and Delta Kappa Gamma.
Martha enjoyed keeping up with news from her large extended family in the Midwest. She enjoyed making clothes for family members and making quilts from the scraps. She gave some of her quilts to the Linus Quilt Group.
Survivors include her daughter, Karen Nelson of Grants Pass, Oregon; her granddaughter, Lynn Nelson of Medford, Oregon; her brother, Clark Whitehead of Brookings, South Dakota; and many nieces and nephews.
Her only son, Lowell Nelson died in 2005. Her husband and all of her other siblings died before her.