Ruth Clark Nelson, 92: Smart, compassionate and socially aware

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SCARBOROUGH — Ruth Clark Nelson, 92, died May 10.

Nelson was born in Eugene, Ore., the daughter of Herman Clark and Helen Mutch Clark. After being raised in Ripon, Wis., she graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women (Chatham College) in Pittsburgh, Pa. and earned her masters degree in social work at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Following her graduation, Nelson was employed as a youth counselor by the YWCA of Grand Rapids, Mich. There she met and married her husband, Reverend Edward R. Nelson, who was the associate minister of the Fountain Street Baptist Church.

Upon moving to Portland in 1945, she balanced being a home-maker, mother, pastor’s wife and volunteer board member for a variety of social agencies within the city. She was a loyal member of the Immanuel Baptist Church and an active participant in church life, especially the Women’s Federation. She served on and supported numerous boards and committees of local organizations including the Greater Portland United Way, Portland YWCA, Child and Family Services and College Club, among others.

For over 40 years she and her husband took pleasure in spending August in their cottage at Ocean Park, where they were active in the life of the summer community. They enjoyed the companionship of family, friends and colleagues on the beach as well as the cultural and religious programs of the Ocean Park Association.

She accompanied her husband on several preaching exchanges in England, Ireland, Scotland and Denmark, forming lasting international friendships. Following her husband’s retirement, they traveled to interim pastorates in Rochester, N.Y., Brookline, Mass. and Gloucester, Mass.

Nelson and her husband moved to Piper Shores when it opened in 2001 and there they developed many friendships with residents and staff. For the past year Nelson resided at Holbrook, where she received excellent care and appreciated the compassion of dedicated care-givers.

She had many wide-ranging interests and talents which she enjoyed sharing with her children and friends. She had a keen interest in nature, was familiar with astronomy and enjoyed teaching her children about stars and constellations.

Nelson was knowledgeable about birds and enjoyed watching them from her window, armed with her bird book to identify any unusual newcomer.

At Ocean Park, she loved the beach and spent many hours in the sand collecting beach glass and observing the signs of marine life. She was interested in the activity in Portland Harbor and would often drive to Fort Allen Park to watch tankers arrive or set sail. She was also an accomplished pianist. Later in her life she became an avid fan of the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Celtics.

In addition to her interest in the natural world, she was a kind, compassionate and caring person with a strong intellect, deep beliefs and a strong abiding concern for social justice.

Nelson is survived by her sons, David E. Nelson and Stephen C. Nelson; cousins Mary Todd and Nancy Donald; and daughter-in-laws Janet and Martha.

A memorial service was held on May 14 at the Williston-Immanuel United Church, 156 High St., Portland.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to the Immanuel Baptist Church, 156 High St., Portland, ME 04101.

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