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Mary Eileen Nelson, aka affectionately to family as “Leen”, passed away Saturday, February 26, 2022, at the age of 100. Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, March 4, 2022, at 1:00 p.m. at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Langdon, ND. Visitation will be held Thursday, March 3, 2022, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. with a 7:00 p.m. Rosary at the Brooks Funeral Home in Langdon.
Eileen was born on October 4, 1921, in Langdon, ND, to Edward John and Kathryn (Nugent) Donovan. Her father was a lawyer, the postmaster in Langdon, and county judge. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed him Selective Service Agent, and President Harry S. Truman appointed him Selective Service Appeal Agent. Her mother was the city librarian for over 50 years. She was a self-appointed risqué book “overseer”. If you wanted to read these books, you needed to ask, as they were kept in a drawer in her desk.
Eileen graduated from Langdon High School in 1939. She graduated from the University of North Dakota with a major in social work and a minor in French in 1943. While attending UND, she was a member of the Alpha Phi Sorority. This is where she met the love of her life, Harry Nelson. He was serving as a busboy at her sorority. He was a member of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity.
Eileen and Harry L. Nelson were united in marriage on November 12, 1943, in Chicago, IL. The Navy would not allow Harry the time for the planned wedding in Langdon. Eileen, her parents, and her maid of honor, Louise Paulson, met Harry in Chicago, IL. Eileen’s brother, Dr. Edward Donovan, was attending medical school at Loyola and also stood up for the couple. At the time of Harry’s passing, they had been married 64 years.
Having enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1942, they lived in Miami, FL; Columbus, OH; and New York City while Harry was attending Naval Schools. One fond memory for Eileen was going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City and watching the military couples getting married before the men shipped out.
In 1944, Harry was assigned sea duty, and Eileen moved home to Langdon to be with her parents. After Harry’s Honorable Discharge in 1946, they lived for a year in Minneapolis, MN, before coming to Langdon in 1947.
Eileen and Harry enjoyed a wonderful life together, raising two children. Both were faithful Catholics. Harry converted to Catholicism in the Navy, unbeknownst to Eileen. The couple were great gardeners, and Eileen was a marvelous cook. She canned and cooked delicious items to share with family and friends.
Eileen was active in her church and civic organizations. She was one of the den mothers for her son’s Cub Scout troop. She helped her mother in the city library. She also worked at the library at St. Alphonsus Catholic School when her daughter was little. Eileen was a member of the Catholic Daughters and philanthropic organization of women, P.E.O. She also enjoyed Bridge Club.
Eileen and her best friend, Dorothy Schroeder, were great fun and the life of the party! They met at UND and were best friends for over 70 years.
She was very close to her sister, Jane (Donovan) Traynor. Their families celebrated every holiday together. The families spent 2 weeks at Breezy Shore Resort in Detroit Lakes, MN, with several other Langdon families for many years until 1974, when the Traynors built a new cabin on Devils Lake in ND.
Eileen lived a wonderful life with her husband and soul mate, Harry, and their two children. She and Harry took care of her mother, Kathryn (Nugent) Donovan, who lived independently across the alley until Kathryn decided to go to the nursing home in Osnabrock, ND, in 1988.
Eileen is survived by her son, Thomas Edward Nelson of Fargo, ND; her daughter, Mary Kathryn Nelson, aka “Kathy”, of Wahpeton, ND; and several nieces and nephews.
Eileen was preceded in death by her parents; husband Harry L. Nelson; brother Dr. Edward J. Donovan of Denver, CO; sister Jane (Donovan) Traynor; Jane’s husband, John T. “Jack” Traynor, of Devils Lake, ND; her husband’s parents, siblings, and their spouses; nephew Jim Nelson; and great-nephew Matthew “Matto” Traynor. Eileen represented the last of the nuclear family Dr. Edward Ignatius Donovan and Mary McKenty Donovan established in 1884.
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