Marian (Brennan) Nelson

May 7, 1945 - July 20, 2020
Marian (Brennan) Nelson

Marian (Brennan) Nelson passed away peacefully in the early morning hours of July 20, 2020 with family at her side. We hope that the first thing she did on the other side was to give a hug to her husband of almost 49 years, Tony Nelson, who died in 2016.

Born May 7, 1945 to parents Iolanda (Rinetti) Brennan and Andrew John Brennan in Vallejo California, Marian was the oldest sister of a trio of characters including her brothers (“Mandrew”) Andrew and (“I’m adopted”) Matthew.  She would often recall childhood stories of the good times, laughter and tears she had with her many cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and extended family.  Extra special memories were of travelling to the family cabin up in Idaho next to the Buffalo River, and her grandparents’ cabin at Big Springs, Idaho.

Marian grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah where she attended Judge Memorial Catholic High School and participated in cheerleading.  Later she went to University of Utah and majored in Elementary Education while also a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority.  After graduating she married her “sweetie” Tony Nelson and moved to Rochester, New York and started a career as an elementary school teacher.  

Marian and Tony were blessed with two children.  When her firstborn, Peter, arrived in 1971, Marian advanced into taking care of him and Patrick who was born in 1975 full time.  When the family moved to Nashua, New Hampshire she took an about turn in life from attending neighborhood bridge group nights to begin working at Immaculate Conception Parish.  This would lead to a career in religious education. 

She started to work full time, and became very involved in the Church, including prayer groups, RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), CCD (religious teaching program of the Catholic Church), and other activities.  She was nicknamed the “Church Lady” by her son’s neighborhood friends and delighted in embarrassing Peter and Patrick at all these locations with loud singing, clapping during mass, and leading their CCD classes at home in front of their school classmates.  As Tony’s employment shifted from state to state, she worked for the Church and with the pastoral teams at Holy Family Parish in Hoffman Estates, Illinois and then St. Thomas More in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  She would eventually earn a master’s degree from Loyola University in Chicago in Pastoral Studies.  

As a Catholic, Marian was moved by the Gospel to serve others.  A large part of her life was her involvement in various parishes RCIA program to help people being their new faith journey as a Catholic.  Sharing the positive message of the faith was important to her.  She volunteered at organizations such as the Peace House and the Aleman Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Social justice and serving others became an important part of her life.

Epictetus said, “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” When her husband of almost 49 years Tony and others were tragically killed by an intoxicated motorist while cycling shortly after her cancer had returned with a Stage 4 diagnosis, she did not take the turmoil this brought to her life sitting down.  Marian continued living life and loving others.  Even as chemo and cancer wreaked havoc on her body, she continued to volunteer and help others during this time.  It was not the struggle with cancer or the death of her husband that defined her life, rather it was her faith and embodiment of loving others unconditionally. Faced with weeks left of life, she continued to think of others with concern and love, trying to take care of them when she needed assistance the most

Members of her surviving family include her two sons, Peter (Jackie Low) and their children: Ripley and Tess Nelson-Low; and Patrick (Cathy) and their children: Ruth and Cora.  She is also survived by her two beloved brothers, Andrew and Matthew, her sister-in-law Mindy (Nelson) MacDougal, and extended family which so enriched her life as well as a large network of lifelong friends.  Their collective prayers, phone calls, cards, texts, emails, visits and love surrounded her and brought peace to her in her final years. We will all tremendously miss her as a fantastic mother, grandmother, friend, and true positive influence on all around her.

The family would like to extend its deepest gratitude for all the love and care she received from the staff, doctors and workers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, Huntsman at Home and the CNS Hospice Nursing team, the Western Michigan Cancer Center, the University of Utah Hospital ER & Rehabilitation Teams and the caregivers from Danville Support Services who made her final days comfortable.  As we undoubtedly have missed including people on this list, thank you to anyone not mentioned.  

Funeral Mass and celebration of life will be held post-pandemic, time and date to be determined. 

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to the Peace House in Kalamazoo and Trauma Recovery Associates.