Edith Nelson, 96, passed away peacefully on January 11, 2017 at her home in San Clemente. A 45 year resident of San Clemente, she was born December 26, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York to Clara and Ernest Frohboese.
The youngest daughter of German parents, she lived in remarkable times. Edith was an avid student, graduating from Glassboro College in 1942 and later receiving her Master's Degree from Bemidji State University. She taught first grade near her family's home in New Jersey, but was intrigued with the recruiting efforts of United Airlines to find stewardesses for their expanding fleet. She flew many routes, among them the San Francisco – Cheyenne leg of the cross country flights on a DC-3 where she met Orvis Nelson, a United pilot. They were married on March 30, 1946. Two weeks before their wedding, he quit his job.
For the next 20 years, she experienced the extraordinary expansion of aviation first hand as Orvis founded and operated Transocean Air Lines, a carrier which ultimately flew scheduled and charter flights across the Globe. She flew around the world at a time when flying long distances was demanding: refueling often at places like Gander, Shannon, Damascus and Karachi. She was the first stewardess to fly the Pacific. This DC-3 stewardess saw the development of bigger and faster airplanes, including the 3 tailed "Constellation", the bulb-nosed "Stratocruiser" and ultimately the Boeing 707.
Edith and Orvis made Danville, California their home and welcomed five children: Holly, Lynn, Sue, Marcus and Jeffrey. Edith focused her characteristic energy and perseverance on her family and created a warm and loving home complete with a menagerie and working walnut orchard. Still, she travelled: She met Elvis Presley at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, curtsied before the Queen of England, drank Kava with the King of Tonga, and charmed the Shah of Iran.
In 1962, Edith and Orvis moved their family to Switzerland, where she proudly drove the family's enormous Plymouth station wagon around the narrow streets and winding country roads. In 1965, the family returned to Danville, California then moved to Minnesota, Connecticut and ultimately settling in San Clemente, California.
Edith returned to teaching as well, becoming everyone's pick for first grade teacher. The family saying was "She could teach ANYONE to read!". She taught at Bell Horn Bay School while living at Big Sandy Lake near McGregor, MN; at East School in New Canaan, CT.; and Olivewood School in then El Toro, CA.
In 1971, Edith and her family moved to San Clemente. She loved the sunny view from her living room and knew it was time to plant some roots. And, plant she did. She was a member of the Garden Club, volunteered at the San Clemente Friends of the Library Bookstore, AAUW, and the San Clemente Presbyterian Church. She was a 10 year member of the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) for the San Clemente Police Department, to the delight of her grandchildren who saw her all over town on traffic detail and working special events.
Widowed in 1976, she travelled the world with her children and grandchildren: On safari in Kenya, Driving across the savannas from Mozambique to Zimbabwe, Discovering the chateaux of the Loire Valley, Panning for gold near Golfito, Costa Rica. Her travel bug was always there, but she loved to come home - to San Clemente.
Edith once wrote "What I've learned from life is that when things go wrong – and they will at some point – you need to focus on the important things like family, pick up the pieces and move on. My family has been my biggest blessing." She is survived by her four children (Holly Nelson Veale, Sue Carol Nelson, Marcus Orvis Nelson and Jeffrey Lee Nelson), eight grandchildren (Marc Veale, Cara Coniglio, Lisa Pedral, Jay Nelson, Daniel Veale, Nya Nelson, Beth Karcher and Morgan Nelson) and fourteen great grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at the San Clemente Presbyterian Church on February 25, 2017 at 3:30 PM. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinsons' Disease Research or the San Clemente Watershed Task Force.