Leila Mae Nelson
A memorial service for Leila Mae “Lee" Nelson, 70, of Big Sandy was held Jan. 27 in the chapel of a funeral home in Gladewater, Texas.
Mrs. Nelson was born April 20, 1936, and died Jan. 18, 2007, after a long and valiant battle with cancer. She was the oldest of three children and is survived by two brothers, Joseph and Lawrence Armstrong, both of Havertown, Pa.
Mrs. Nelson is also survived by her husband, Dr. Kermit Nelson, and daughters Karen Weese and Nancy White and son Henry “Chip" Schmidt III, all of Big Sandy, daughter Donna Dickinson of Irving, Texas, and sons Toney Schmidt of Bozeman, Mont., and David Schmidt of Glendale, Calif.
Along with sons-in-laws, daughters-in-laws, a stepdaughter and three stepsons, Mrs. Nelson left behind many grandchildren and a growing number of great-grandchildren. Mrs. Nelson was preceded in death by her first husband, Henry “Hank" Schmidt II, in 1977.
Officiating at the memorial service was a longtime friend of the Schmidt and Nelson families, Carlton Green of Sherman Oaks, Calif., along with Church of God Big Sandy pastor Dave Havir.
Dr. Green commented to the standing-room-only audience, “It is love that has brought me here."
Dr. Green said his and Mrs. Nelson's families had moved to Big Sandy at the same time many years ago and had become fast friends.
Mrs. Nelson was born Leila Mae Armstrong. She grew up in Philadelphia, Pa. In 1955 she married Mr. Schmidt and joined him in working in the family business, Schmidt Bakery, in Philadelphia.
In 1971 the Schmidt family moved from the close family setting and relocated to Big Sandy, where Mr. Schmid worked for Ambassador College in the kitchen.
In 1981 Leila Mae married Kermit Nelson, also of Big Sandy. Dr. Nelson had lost his first wife to cancer in 1977.
Mrs. Nelson's circle of family and friends continued to expand. She was loved and respected by Ambassador students who remember her smiling face in the dining hall, campers and staff at Orr, Minn., where she cooked for the Summer Education Program (SEP) of the Worldwide Church of God for many years, and her many friends in Big Sandy, where she worked at various places of employment.
“Mom really loved to bake and cook and was very good at it," said Karen Weese, Mrs. Nelson's oldest daughter. “Some of her favorite memories were of the summers spent at SEP in Orr running the kitchen. I don't think you would find better food anywhere. It was like eating home cooking. No wonder everyone at SEP called her Mom."
Julie Wilkins of Hawkins, who knew Mrs. Nelson since 1981, operated a restaurant in Big Sandy, Annie's Tea Room, with her during the 1980s.
“When we hired anyone she took every one of them under her wing," Mrs. Wilkins said. “It didn't matter who they were. She would invite people to her home as if they were family," and “she was a very good listener."
Glenda Stroupe of Gilmer, Texas, worked in the same department with Mrs. Nelson at Strategic Fulfillment Group (SFG) in Big Sandy in recent years.
“She enjoyed work and looked forward to coming in every day," Mrs. Stroupe said. “There are 30 reps in our department and she knew everyone's birthday. She made a cake for each one on their birthday. She would cook breakfast for all of us some mornings and bring it to work."
Mrs. Nelson worked at SFG for as long as she could, even while taking cancer treatments.
“She was a courageous lady and an inspiration to us all," Mrs. Stroupe said. “We all miss her."
Nancy White said about her mother: “As the years went by, my mother became more of a girlfriend to me. We had so much fun together. She taught me so much, but no lesson had a greater impact on me than the grace, dignity, faith and strength she exhibited in the face of her battle with cancer. She fought cancer and, though it took her life, she won because it never was able to conquer her indomitable spirit."
Mrs. Nelson is remembered as a devoted wife, a precious mother, a dear mother-in-law, a cherished grandmother, an adored sister and a genuine friend. John Warren, Big Sandy, Texas.