Martha Elizabeth Nielsen, 102, left her earthly body August 22, 2012 as the noon bells rang out at Mt. St Francis, marking the close of one adventure and the beginning of another.
She was born January 17, 1910 in Monessen, Pennsylvania to Susanna “Sudie” and Frederick Riethmiller. Her only sibling, Sara Grace, died in early adulthood.
Martha grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania, and graduated from East High School in 1927. Soon after, she married George White. They raised three children, two boys and one girl, through the Great Depression and WWII.
Martha was known for her resourcefulness, wit, and scrumptious desserts – but never for her quiet laugh. She sang, sewed and jawed through thick and thin with the women from Messiah Lutheran Church. Martha loved to read, write, paint, and, most of all, cook. She was always ready with a new joke.
Her children grown, Martha set out for California and landed a job with the Oakland AC Transit Lost & Found where she worked for over 15 years. She married Harold Nielsen February 18, 1960 in Vegas’ Little White Chapel and helped raise four stepchildren. Harold and Martha sought adventure on the open road, and Martha continued traveling after Harold’s death in 1981.
The year she was widowed, Martha stopped at the local fire station to ask them if they would look in on her house, as she was off on a cross-country trip. In return, she promised to repay them generously with baked goods. Martha kept her word, and by the time she put away her rolling pin at age 90, she had baked for the entire CSFD many times over. Her stories, lively spirit, and homemade goodies earned her the title “Chief Grandma.”
Martha is survived by her son Carl White and daughter-in-law Eileen White of Colorado Springs, her son George White and daughter-in-law Patricia White of Glendora California, son-in-law William H. Keers of Metuchen, New Jersey, stepdaughter Vicki Nielsen and Sherri and Ben Namoka, of Alaska.
Her legacy lives on through 15 grandchildren: Karen Lindsey, Laura Cobb, Bradley White and Curtis White of California, Kathy Keers-Nolde, Bobbie Keers-Flood, and Beth Thomas of New Jersey, Moira Allaby and Sean White of Colorado, Tara Afriat of Israel, Cheryl Namoka, Ben Namoka, Brandon Namoka, Tina Nielsen and Terri Nielson, all of Alaska, and 20 great grandchildren.
Martha was no doubt met at the pearly gates by St. Peter (the protagonist of her favorite joke), beloved husband, Harold Nielsen, cherished daughter, Susan Keers, her sister, Sara Grace, stepsons, Richard and Michael Nielsen – and a host of others who went before her.
Never one to be idle, Martha is not at rest, but at peace, serving the Lord who has been her help and salvation throughout her life.
A celebration of her life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 15, 2012 at the Shrine of Remembrance “America the Beautiful” Chapel, 1730 East Fountain Boulevard, Colorado Springs, CO 80910.
The family is grateful to the staff at Mt. St. Francis Nursing Center for devoted care in the last season of Martha’s life.
To leave condolences and memories online: ShrineofRemembrance.com