Louise Nelson celebrates ‘hope and joy’ with her life story

Tracy Haun OwensFountain City, Our Town Stories

The daughter of an itinerant farmer, 98-year-old author Louise Nelson moved to three states in her first 13 years. When she married a man in the service, she followed him until his job with TVA led to their settling in Knoxville in 1965. But through all those moves, she kept the mementos and photos that meant something to her, going all the way back to grade school.

Now she has incorporated those memories together in a book she has been working on for more than a decade. Inspired by her favorite words, “hope and joy,” she has meditated in print on what her Christian faith, her family and her history have meant to her.

“It’s my story, and I have loved and lived every minute of it,” Nelson says.

She counts herself blessed to have a sharp mind and memory and has stayed active and engaged.

“I’m blessed to have made friends all over the world,” says Nelson, locally famous as an avid golfer.

She lost her husband of 61 years, Bob Nelson, 16 years ago, and she began writing as a way of processing her grief.

Sitting on her porch in Fountain City, penning her memories, “… took up day after day. It was therapeutic for me.”

She didn’t write the privately printed book to sell. Mostly, she says, she has written it to share her story with her three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, who are scattered throughout the country. She has also given a copy to the Halls Crossroads Women’s League, where members have taken her in as one of their own.

Before moving here, she already had a strong connection to East Tennessee. Her maternal grandfather perished with 215 other men and boys (including four of his brothers) in the Fraterville Mine disaster in Anderson County in May 1902. Over the years she has become active with the Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, learning more about her mother’s family’s history and sharing the history she knows.

Her great-grandchildren range in age from 3 to 14, and she wants them to know about the people who came before them.

“I want them to know how beautiful life is and how God-given it is,” Nelson says. “You make it what it is. Make yourself useful while you are here.”

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