On March 21, 2020, Verene Oleen Nelstead passed away peacefully at the Fischer Cottage of St. John’s Lutheran Ministries in Billings. She was 89 years old. Even though she was affected by the ravages of Alzheimer’s, she never lost her spark, especially when she had visitors.
She was born in Raleigh, North Dakota, on Aug. 22, 1930, and attended school where her mother was the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Her family lived in several small North Dakota prairie towns including Leith, Heil, New Leipzig and Beach, where she graduated from high school. She went on to attend Dickinson State Teacher’s College.
Verene first taught school in Scobey and Missoula. She then moved to Billings and taught first grade for over 30 years, mostly at Central Heights. She retired in 1992, but her students and her students’ parents still would approach her and say things like, “You were my favorite teacher.” She had a kindness and gentleness about her that served and launched many 6- and 7-year olds.
That same wonderful heart blessed the lives of her husband, Keith, whom she married in Sidney, Montana, in 1955; and her three children: Randall Keith Nelstead of Vail, Colorado, Sheri Lynn (Bob) Towne of Tacoma, Washington, and Kevin Torval (Shirley) Nelstead of Billings. She attended many birthdays, weddings, graduations, new baby arrivals, and family trips. That she will be missed is a huge understatement; that she is in a better place healthy and whole is our consolation.
Whatever Verene put her hand to, she left a mark of excellence. She was a talented seamstress and sewed many of her own clothes. The many quilts she made were exquisite, including all eight grandchildren’s baby and graduation quilts. She was a skilled artist when it came to needlework, especially her beloved white-on-white Hardanger. Venturing out on new types of embroidery, she also became skilled at cutwork, Brazilian, redwork, Tambour, pulled thread, chicken scratch, silk ribbon, and more. She won many ribbons at the Montana Fair and other events, joined guilds, taught a variety of classes, and gave away countless treasured handmade gifts to the numerous people in her life.
Verene was a member of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Billings, which Verene and Keith joined in the late 1950s. Just as Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, Verene’s family and friends weep at her death. But grief is softened by the hope of resurrection through Jesus Christ. Before Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Verene had this hope in Christ, and just as Christ rose victorious from the grave, so also Verene will rise with a new body and a new mind. There will be no more tears, sorrow, or forgetfulness. Her needlework in the New Heavens and New Earth will exceed even what she created in this life.
Verene is preceded in death by her husband, Keith, who died in 1992; her parents, Eugene and Lydia Will and her brother and sister-in-law, Marvin and Kay Will. She is survived by her brother, Gene Roger (Merilee) Will of Vancouver, Washington; her three children, Randy, Sheri and Kevin, listed above; eight grandchildren, Alison (Kyle) Olson, John (Callie) Towne , Benjamin Towne, Michael Towne, Kyle (Becky) Nelstead, Craig (Chanelle) Nelstead, Amy (Alex) Shin, and Heather (Derek) Lugowski; and five great-grandchildren, Elijah, Lily, Adeline, Zoe and Leilani.
She will be interred on Friday, March 27, at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Billings. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there will be no funeral or graveside service at this time. A memorial service will be held at a later date to celebrate the beautiful life of Verene.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or to St. John’s United (formerly St. John’s Lutheran Ministries).
Condolences may be made at www.michelottisawyers.com.