Ella Genece Nelson passed away on December 11, 2023. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ronald Earl Nelson. She is survived by her son, Rolfe (his wife Christine), and her daughter, Jenell. She is also survived by four grandchildren: Julie Nelson Davis (Joe Davis-great grandchildren Corrinne and Sean) and Christopher Nelson (Tary-great grandchildren Ryder and Orion). Other grandchildren are Scott Hallett (great-grandchildren Kayla and Preston) and Brian Hallett (Crystal-great grandchildren Mattix and Taylen)
Ella Genece Hesketh was born on August 1, 1923, in St. John, North Dakota (County of Rolette), 7 miles from the Canadian Border. Her father was Rolfe Hesketh, who owned a general store and managed the post office and drug store. Her mother was Ethel Edna Mc Pherson, a school teacher. Her siblings were Majorie May, Rolfe “Harris,” and Roger George, and they all attended Elementary and High School in St. John.
After graduating high school, Ella went to Devil’s Lake and worked for a doctor and his wife. She helped with house duties and lived with the local sheriff and roomed with his daughter. Eventually, she moved in with her Aunt Jean in St. Paul. Ella went to Business College but eventually returned to Bismarck and worked at the Capital in an office for Poultry Improvement.
Ronald Nelson and his brother, Carl, served in the Navy. Both brothers came home on leave, and that is when Ella met Ronald at a dance on her 21st Birthday. The romance continued when Ella was invited to a party at the Nelson Farm in Cole Harbor. Ronald returned to his ship shortly after the party, and then they communicated through letters. The family wishes that we had come into possession of some of those letters.
After the war, Ronald went to live in California and got a job in Pasadena while waiting for employment with the California Highway Patrol. Ella’s father died around the same time, and she moved to California to be closer to Ronald and relatives. She arrived in California on July 4, 1946. Ella and Ronald were married on November 8, 1946, at the Huntington Park Methodist Church.
Ella began working for her Uncle Harry in a delivery business, but when Rolfe Douglas was born, she quit her job. Jenell Gail Nelson was born three years later, on April 12, 1951, and the family was complete. Ronald worked several jobs because, as new parents, they believed that Ella should stay home to raise the children. Once the family arrived in Atascadero, around 1952, Ronald continued to work other jobs in addition to being a California Highway Patrolman.
Ella stayed busy in addition to being a stay-at-home Mom. She was involved in PTA, was a Cub Scout Den Mother, and belonged to the Women’s Club, Emblem Club, and Republican Women’s. In 1966, Ella started working at Cal Poly. She supervised the student dining room, and then, when Ronald was transferred to Taft in 1967, she worked at the cafeteria at Taft High School. The family moved several times when Ronald received promotions as a CHP, including Yreka, San Luis Obispo, back to Atascadero, Taft, Buellton, and then back to Atascadero, where Ella resumed her work at Cal Poly.
Ronald was a WWII Vet, a Pearl Harbor survivor, and a Highway Patrolman who worked his way up to a Lieutenant and was famous for being on the scene when James Dean died in a car accident. He was also the Grand Marshall of Colony Days. The family thinks of him as a Rock Star, but Ella was the rock and the foundation of the family. Ella ran the household and took care of Jenell, Rolfe, and everything else. Ella was a gardener who planted and harvested her vegetable garden. She canned vegetables and made rhubarb pies. With the help of her children, they took care of the small Nelson “farm” that consisted of chickens, turkeys, cattle, horses, sheep, lamas, dogs, and cats. She was talented at sewing and cooking. She was a fabulous mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
When Ronald passed away in 2012, Ella continued running the household until she moved into Ingleside Assisted Living by the Lake in September 2019. During the Covid lockdown, she moved again into Park Place Assisted Living on December 9, 2020. Ella passed away peacefully in her sleep on December 11, 2023, 100 years, four months and eleven days young. Although saddened by the loss, her family and friends will continue to be ambassadors for the love and compassion that she gave to everyone, for her generosity, for her sense of humor, and for her strength of character.