Marjorie Nelson Monette

ROCHESTER, Minnesota – Marjorie Nelson Monette, 86, beloved wife of Clarence Monette (formerly of Houghton) and precious mother of Gretchen and Lance, passed away suddenly on New Year’s Day 2014 in Rochester, Minnesota.

On October 3, 1925, Chas Nelson of Levy, New Mexico, then almost 20, and Susie Trujillo of Piedralumbre, New Mexico., aged 16, were married in Trinidad, Colorado in a happy union that would last nearly 58 years until Charlie’s sudden death on New Year’s Day 1983. They raised three children, the oldest of which was a daughter, Marjorie, born July 25, 1927 in Dawson, New Mexico, at that time a mining town, now a ghost town. Marjorie was given a very loving but strict upbringing by her evangelical father and Spanish native New Mexican Catholic mother. Baptized in the Evangelical United Brethren Church at Wagon Mound, New Mexico, where her father was a trustee, Marjorie attended church and Sunday school and sang in the choir there as a youth.

Always a strong student, Marjorie did well in school, despite suffering a lengthy respiratory illness which nearly took her life. Absent for almost a year, she nonetheless graduated at the age of sixteen and entered Western School of Business in Albuquerque where she pursued courses in accounting, bookkeeping, shorthand, typing, etc. It was there in Albuquerque in 1944 as she walked to class that she caught the eye and quickly stole the heart of a young Army corporal from the U.P. by the name of Clarence Monette. Taken with her sparkling smile, enchanted by her sweetness and beauty, he would wink and grin as she passed – something she tried to ignore at first. He later confessed that he knew right away he simply had to get to know her.

After finishing business school, Marjorie went back to her home town of WM, procuring a job as bookkeeper and clerk at Vorenberg’s Mercantile and saving money for college at Denver University. In Denver she shared a house with her two younger brothers, Al and Chuck, who were also attending DU at the time. Clarence Monette had meanwhile enrolled at CU in Boulder and made it a point to see Marjorie as much as possible. On weekends she would drill him on his course material and they would go to concerts and fine restaurants in the Denver area. On the question of marriage, she always demurred, saying she wasn’t ready.

Then one day Mr. C.R. Monette came to call on Miss Marjorie Nelson at her parents’ home. When he brought up marriage, she repeated the usual demurral, but this time her determined suitor spoke up emphatically: “You HAVE to marry me!” He said he intended to wait for a definitive answer outside on the front steps, and he meant to stay there until she gave him her decision. Inside the house, she sought the counsel of her father who advised that if this was the one, she should go ahead. The couple was married on October 23, 1954, Clarence’s 36th birthday. Marjorie had by then been received into the Catholic faith, and their wedding mass was celebrated at Santa Clara Church in WM.

Marjorie had just graduated with a bachelor of science from DU where she had studied chemistry and nutrition in preparation for a career in dietetics. Her original plans changed, however: Urged to take the position left vacant by the sudden death of the longtime prefirst teacher in her hometown, she began teaching at Wagon Mound, New Mexico in 1954. In the summers she returned to DU for coursework and received her masters in 1958.

At WM she taught kindergarten, prefirst, and first grades as well as remedial reading for all the grades; directed the headstart and title I programs, and served as principal for a time and also librarian. She was a phenomenal teacher, and excelled at teaching phonics and reading in particular. In students who fell behind she enkindled such a passion for reading, that back in their regular classrooms, kids who purportedly hated to read were seen eagerly sneaking peeks at books from Mrs. Monette’s room during their other lessons. She retired in 1992 after 38 years of teaching, having overseen the formation of numerous young minds to whom she provided a foundation in academics while imparting lessons in kindness, virtue, and good citizenship.

Marjorie Nelson Monette passed away unexpectedly on New Years Day 2014 on the 31st anniversary of the death of her father Chas. Nelson (d. January 1, 1983) whom she took after in so many ways: calm, upbeat, imperturbable, offering an encouraging word in every circumstance, deeply grounded in faith. Neither of them was ever known to speak an unkind word about anyone.

Marjorie was an exceptional caregiver, lovingly caring for her mother Susie (1909-1991) who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s and taking meticulous care of her husband Clarence (1918-2013), making sure his every need was met, especially in later years as his health began to decline.

She was a wonderful mother to daughter, Gretchen; and son, Lance, who grew up basking in the radiance of her sparkling smile and to whom she taught many principles mainly by example: see good in others, be positive, persevere, accept whatever God sends with trust.

Despite enduring severe pain from osteoporosis, arthritis, and neuropathy in the last several years, Marjorie rarely gave a hint of being in discomfort. A multi-tasker she kept busy even when relaxing, usually balancing the cheque book or doing a crossword puzzle while cooking and listening to the news. She never let pain get her down. Keenly attuned to politics, she seemed to know the names of every member of Congress and the misdeeds of all the politicians. Typically she would retire around 11:30 with news radio on which she would turn off about 2 a.m., then wake up before 7 o’clock to say prayers. She was in the habit of praying for family and friends every day. More than politics, she enjoyed keeping up with family news and looked forward to phone calls from various relatives. Her entire life she was interested in nutrition, and in later years, she painstakingly prepared a special diet suitable to her husband’s health needs. Her signature dish may well have been beans and chile, a New Mexican staple and family favorite which Clarence relished until his 94th and final year.

Besides her children, Marjorie is survived by a brother, Chas. Nelson of Monument, Colorado; and a sister-in-law, Grace Nelson of Bartlesville, Oklahoma; as well as nieces, nephews; and a cousin, Rita Hadley of Glendale, Arizona.

She was preceded in death by her husband, Clarence; parents, Chas. and Susie Nelson; in-laws, James and Dora Monette; an infant brother, Charles; her brother, Alvan; sisters-in-law, Grace Monette and Olga Nelson; brother-in-law, Edward Monette; and several aunts, uncles, and cousins, including; Carrie Ferguson and Angie Sandoval who was like a sister.

The immediate family offers thanks to niece, Char Russell; grandnephew, Joey Godreau; and second cousin, Susan Medina for their many kindnesses to Marjorie and Clarence.

The mass of Christian burial for Marjorie will be celebrated by Fr. John Martignon at 11 a.m. on May 14, 2014, the first anniversary of her husband’s passing, at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, the site of Clarence’s baptism, first Holy Communion, confirmation, eighth grade graduation, and funeral mass.

Visitation with Rosary starts at 10 a.m. Following mass Marjorie will be laid to rest in Forest Hill Cemetery beside Clarence who in this life could never bear to be parted from her. Marjorie lived only 7 1/2 months after the passing of her husband. They were married 58 years and savored every minute. Recently she characterized their marriage as “magical.”

In our present mourning we take consolation in the memory of a morning from the past as recalled by Char Russell who has given us an unforgettable portrait of her Aunt Marjorie: “[She was]… beautiful, impeccably dressed, upbeat… pouring a hot cup of black coffee in Grandma’s kitchen.” Those of us who were often in that kitchen, awash in the sparkling rays of morning sun, can picture it vividly: Marjorie in a place where brilliant dazzling light is shining in perpetuity.

The O’Neill-Dennis Funeral Home in Hancock is assisting with the arrangements.

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