Vena Nila Nelson, of Yuba City, CA, passed away quietly at home on December 12, 2022, at the age of 95, one of the last of America's "Greatest Generation". Her motto for life was to work your best and love your best, loving everyone every day.
Born in the Ozark Mountains near Leslie, Arkansas, she grew up on her family acreage helping with the gardening, tending the farm animals and playing with and, as the oldest child, helping to care for her 5 brothers and sisters, Glen, Tula, Dewayne, Wanda, and Samuel Elton. The family raised cattle but Vena said she never had a hamburger until she moved to California. The beef cattle were for selling, not for eating.
She got her first paying job while still a teenager stacking barrel staves and used her first paycheck to buy a doll for her sister, Tula, and clothes for her baby brother, Samuel Elton. They often said Vena was more like a mother to them than a sister.
She met her future husband, Ray (Jake) Nelson, Jr., and brought him home to meet her father, Samuel Blain Rains. She joked that her father approved of her new beau because Jake was good looking and he was not one of her many cousins.
Vena and Jake married December 4, 1947, and 2 weeks later loaded up the entire Nelson family, Ray, Sr., Ollie and (at that time) 7 brothers and sisters and moved to Sutter, California. Two more Nelson girls, sisters to Jake, would be born and grow up in California. Vena and Jake themselves would bring into the world 2 daughters, Susan Kay (Grant) and Sandra Fay (Morse).
Vena raised her daughters surrounded by a large family and a close community of friends. She experienced the sounds, sights, and smells of the busy work of farming and in her own way contributed to the California goal of feeding the world. She worked for Harter Cannery in Yuba City in many positions and retired as a supervisor after twenty years of "good and faithful" service.
Over the years she opened her door to many who needed a place to stay, be it overnight, for a month, or even longer. Her guests always had a warm bed and a hot meal.
Vena volunteered for teaching duties at the Assembly of God Church in Sutter, California, and for the Gleaners organization of Yuba City, California. She loved teaching the young ladies in Sutter and helping to feed the disadvantaged in Yuba City.
Vena is survived by her daughter, Susan (Gary); her grandchildren, Paul Grant, Jennifer Grant, Jonathan Grant, and Rebekah (Morse) Everett; 5 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews including Christine Rains Kelley.
The family would like to thank Vena's final caregivers, Tez Woods, Jose Raymundo, and Charlotta Mertz for the loving care they provided to Vena for her last year.
A celebration of life is planned following her graveside service Thursday, December 15, 2022, at 1:00 PM at Sutter Cemetery, Sutter, California. Donations can be made to Friends of Meals on Wheels, 40 N. East St., Suite C, Woodland, CA, 95776.