Maria Dawn Nelson, 58, of Bonaparte, died at 11:30 P.M. MST on Monday, January 9, 2017 at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona after a long battle with lung disease (she was a staunch anti-smoker her entire life). Maria was born August 4, 1957 in Keosauqua, the fourth child (and first girl) of nine to Samuel G. and Mary E. Fairchild Nelson.
Out of the 9, she was the studious, strong-willed, independent one. Her love of books and reading started at a young age. She often had her nose in a book, and was the only one of her siblings to leave Iowa to explore the world (before eventually returning to raise her kids). Maria lived in Farmington, Iowa through kindergarten, and then spent the rest of her childhood on farms north of Bonaparte, where she graduated Harmony High School in 1975.
After graduating from high school, Maria joined the U.S. Air Force (01/09/1976 to 03/21/1984). She worked as a dental lab technician at Lowry Air Force Base in Aurora, Colorado, where she met her husband, Randy, and her two oldest children were born. Her rank was Staff Sergeant at the time of her Honorable discharge in 1984. While in Denver, she loved snow skiing and playing volleyball.
After leaving the military and divorcing, Maria returned home to Iowa to raise her children and go to college. She was an eager student with a hunger for knowledge and passion for learning. She first attended Southeastern Community College and then went on to Western Illinois University where she earned her Master of Science degree (major Health Education) in 1992, a Bachelor of Science degree (major Health Science) in 1990, and a Bachelor of Business degree (major Finance, minor Safety Education) in 1988.
She lived in the Denmark and West Point, Iowa areas until about 10 years ago when she returned to the family farm in Bonaparte. Maria enjoyed reading books, listening to music, and dancing, was an animal lover and devoted her life to rescuing animals and children. She was passionate about learning and education and the preservation and conversation of the environment.
She is survived by a son, Patrick Rahm, of Norwalk, IA, and a daughter, Miranda Watson (Paul) of Fairview, NC, two grandchildren, Madison and Noah Watson of Fairview, NC, five brothers, Dennis and Curtis Nelson (Bonnie) of Bonaparte, Mike Nelson of Danville, Greg Nelson of Keokuk, and Brad Nelson of Kahoka, MO, and two sisters, Marcia and Terri Nelson both of Des Moines.
In addition to her parents, Maria is preceded in death by her son, Alexander Nelson, and a brother, Randy Nelson.
Funeral services will be at 11:00 A.M. on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at Pedrick Funeral Home, Keosauqua with Pastor Chad Welch officiating. Visitation will open at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday. Burial with military honors by Sargeant-Osweiler Post No. 563, Bonaparte will be in Vale Cemetery, north of Bonaparte. Lunch will be served after the burial at the Bonaparte Opera House.
Memorials to may be left at funeral home or mailed to the family at 88 Ledgestone Drive, Fairview, NC 28730.