Eloise Rea Nelson Of Newark, died on April 14, 2011 just
after her 86th birthday, from respiratory failure caused by
pneumonia. Born Eloise Arnold Rea on February 27, 1925, to
the late Harry Rea and Julia Eller Rea in Washington, D.C.,
she was raised in Anacostia by her mother's sister, Lottie
Eller Signor, and her husband, Frederick Signor, upon Julia's
death in a later childbirth.
Nicknamed "Wee", she held first honors and graduated in
1942 from Eastern High School where she helped staff the
library. Future husband Frank Erle Nelson also attended
Eastern and upon graduation entered the war-time Naval Officer Training Program at
Georgia Tech where he studied engineering. Eloise worked at the Library of Congress
and accepted proposal of marriage after a first date. She was librarian for the Georgia
Tech school of architecture.
They married on June 23, 1945, as Frank began active duty as an ensign on the
late-war aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. The couple was lovingly inseparable throughout
their 63 years together. A shared love of animals nurtured a long series of house cats in
their Brookside home, where they were among the first households in that new post-war
suburban community. They were staunch supporters of the Delaware S.P.C.A.,
Plumpton Park Zoo in Rising Sun, MD, and devoted countless volunteer hours caring for
and rehabilitating wild birds at Tri-State Nature Center.
Eloise loved eclectic history, from ancient Rome and Egypt, to America's patriotic
heritage from colonial times to the present. She found connection to those pasts
through voracious readings, museums, historic sites and the collection and study of
everyday things. She teased out occasional treasures from regional flea markets and
antique shops, where she developed friendships with many a dealer. A volunteer guide
at Winterthur, she delighted in both learning from Americana and sharing insights with
guests. She was an accomplished textile folk artist, with creations ranging from full-size
quilts, wall tapestries and colonial women's clothing to needle-work book marks. An
originator of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church antique show, she served with the Altar
Guild, was a Communion Assistant and a Lay Eucharist Minister coordinating Senior
Visitation of shut-ins, nursing homes and retirement homes.
In the 1980s and 90s, the couple often cruised the rock-bound coast of Maine on
windjammers and travelled extensively in the American West, Canada, Great Britain,
France and Russia, with a special fascination for nature, castles and cathedrals. She
enjoyed leisurely day sailing on Frank's Snipes and Lightnings, but did not share his
thrill for competitive racing and so sometimes found herself a seasonal sailing widow
on race weekends. Eloise practically invented "scrapbooking" and in addition to
recording Nelson family stories with camera and narrative, preserved fond memories
and mementos of those many exotic explorations.
Beloved husband Frank died in 2008. Daughter S. Anne Rae resides near Valley
Forge, PA. Son Dean Erle Nelson and daughter-in-law Joanne Gamsby Nelson reside
in Southington, CT, with grandson Thomas Erle Nelson, in Wichita, KS, and
granddaughter Andrea Lynn Nelson in San Francisco, CA. Nieces, nephews and their
respective children reside in variously in Virginia, North Carolina and California.
Memorial services are Saturday, May 7, at 11 am at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 276
South College Avenue, Newark, DE. Interment is private.