Obituary: Jean E. Nelson


Beloved Jean E. Nelson hung up her dance shoes and passed away peacefully at the age of 92 on Friday, November 23, 2018, waltzing her way to her next grand ball beyond this life. She will ALWAYS be remembered for her joie de vivre, especially including her passion for dancing anywhere, anytime, with anyone, and her boundless love for her husband Nels, and her children, grandchildren, step children, kitties, grand kitties, and grand puppies. She was the life of the party (!!!), a genuine soul, “she knew how to work a room,” and we will miss her.

Jean was born in Minnesota and moved at a young age with her family to Port Townsend, where she graduated high school. Her nose for business and making a deal led her to business school in Seattle and soon after graduating her entrepreneurial spirit took her to Alaska to seek her fortunes as a single mom. Jean started as a bookkeeper, then became a real estate agent, and finally a broker, creating the foundation for many investments that she and her husband would make over the years.

In many ways Jean was a woman ahead of her time and she never shied away from being a unique personality. Ancient astrology was an early passion of hers before the convenience of prepackaged horoscopes showed up daily in newspapers, and she studied yoga decades before studios began springing up in every strip mall. Her inclusive nature brought her to study at the Unitarian church way before “can’t we all just get along” became a meme and long before memes were invented. Jean taught her daughters to use chop sticks at a very young age, at the Rice Bowl, where she’d sip her Pink Squirrel or Grasshopper whilst they wrangled with frogs legs. Then there was garlic, virtually unknown in the 60s, which she used liberally. Very. And dancing. If only Dancing with the Stars was around in the 60s and 70s, Jean and Nels could have, no, would have, stolen the show. Name the dance and they could do it: Polka, Waltz, Salsa, Swing, Country Western, Belly Dance (oh yes!), Foxtrot, Cha Cha, and everyone’s favorite, the Schottische.

Jean was born to Herb and Effie Swanson as the eldest of four children, and is survived by her sisters Marian Stephens (husband Burl) and Lorna Williams (husband Robert), and her brother Herb Swanson. She was preceded in death by her cherished husband and now eternal dance partner, Merlin O. Nelson, “Nels”. Jean lost her son Richard to cancer a few years ago, and now the family left behind to mourn her death include her daughter Sandy Brown (her husband Paul), and their daughters Lindsey Barksdale (and her husband Jesse) and Chelsey Sorensen (her husband Jakah and son Wesley); daughter Sherri Erickson; stepdaughters Pat Jensen (her son Travis) and Melanie Mirthan; and a mighty fine bevy of nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews from the Swanson clan. Jean had a big heart, wore her emotions on her sleeve, and embraced life joyfully. A celebration of Jean’s life will be held on Saturday, January 5th at the Burien Elks.


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