Donor Spotlight: Marie E. Nelson

Marie Nelson

When long-time NET supporter Marie E. Nelson died at age 98 in August 2013, it was a natural decision for her family to suggest memorial gifts be made to NET Foundation for Television, NET Foundation for Radio, and two other entities close to Marie's heart. A musician and teacher, Marie Jensen grew up in Chappell, and after marrying Byron Nelson, lived in the Alliance area most of her life, where she taught music in local schools, taught private piano lessons and played piano and organ for churches and other groups.

Marie was a teacher-facilitator for NET Music Appreciation Classes, offered via video tapes, in Alliance. She worked with NET staff and music educators to provide lessons in music history and theory using the tapes. She also used an early NET educational television program on Nebraska history, called Nebraska Heritage, hosted by historian Robert Manley, in her one-room schools in rural Alliance.

Her son, Greg, said his parents loved NET Radio and Television and helped develop the statewide networks. Greg's sister, Jann Howard, has worked at NET for 13 years; however, she said, her parents' love of NET Radio and Television long preceded her employment with NET.

"When NET Radio was going statewide for the first time, there was a contest to reach 100 new listeners and a prize for reaching that goal," Greg Nelson said. "My wife and I talked about signing up my parents in Alliance although the transmitter had not gone live yet. At member number 98 I called into the station and got my parents in as members 99 and 100."

Marie served on a citizen's advisory committee that suggested content for public radio and she tried to convince local businesses to play public radio instead of commercial radio.

Greg and Marie visited the "Home Office" of Car Talk in Boston. Although they didn't meet Click and Clack, they toured the office and Marie left Carhenge T-shirts, bumper-stickers and mugs.

Marie and her family loved to travel and they visited England and Europe, and lived for a year in Australia when Byron was a Fulbright exchange teacher. They also hosted a student from Ghana, who has become a second son to the family.

"Anyway, as you might have guessed, our parents were strong supporters of public radio and TV in Nebraska," Greg said. "Our Dad (who died in 1997) loved to listen to and laugh along with (Car Talk hosts) Tom and Ray, for example.

"Marie loved to listen to the news and especially to the music. As a piano and organ player, classical keyboard music was very special to her. She'd listen to the ‘Piano Puzzler' on Performance Today with Fred Child. I'd call her to see if she'd worked out the Piano Puzzle and she'd have worked out the answers long before I had. She worked through the Piano Puzzler book which we purchased for her one year."

Greg said his parents loved travel, science and nature shows on NET Television, particularly NOVA, Nature and Travel with Rick Steves. Marie especially enjoyed Mystery! And Masterpiece Theatre. During the final years of Marie's life, Jann often visited her in the evening and they listened to classical music together.

"I think even more than that wonderful content, our mother enjoyed meeting the people who put together public radio and television," Greg said.

On Marie's 90th birthday in 2005, Lora Black played an hour of Marie's favorite tunes on the radio.

"At the conclusion of the program, Marie and Lora spoke via our new cell phone," Greg said. "It was quite a thrill for Marie to have so many friends at NET — it meant a great deal to her, and to us all."

In addition to Greg and Jann, Marie is survived by their spouses, her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and her Ghanaian son and his family.

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