LIFE SKETCH OF MELVA JANE NELSON-ESLINGER
Surrounded by her devoted family at her side, Melva Jane Nelson-Eslinger passed away peacefully on Friday January 24, 2020 after courageously battling a progressive neurodegenerative illness.
Melva entered this life on October 19, 1935. She was the eldest of three children born to Melvin and Janie Nelson of Laurelwood, OR.
Being quiet and shy Melva told stories of struggling in elementary school. Noisy children and strangers for teachers were challenges for her. Fortunately, her outspoken and bold cousin Lois would speak up for her. In due time Melva formed her own circle of friends. Melva enjoyed playing softball and ping pong.
Summers were special for Melva, with vacation from school and especially sleeping in. There was also time to ride her bicycle with Brother Jesse, sometimes quite lengthy rides. But she also needed to make money. That meant work in the nearby fields, picking string beans or other vegetables, along with nuts or fruit.
Melva thoroughly relished family reunions with cousins, uncles and aunts, while sharing stories and experiences. Regular visits to the Oregon beaches, lakes and mountains developed a deep appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors. She became an ardent lover of God’s creative handiwork as witnessed by her growing interest in painting and photography. She was also quite accomplished at the piano, accordion, and later the organ.
Her talent in photography was attested to at a much later time, when professional photographer and close friend of the family, Gene Lambert, invited Melva to display some of her Canadian Rocky Mountain scenery at a photography class taught by Mr. Lambert. She passed her love of photography on to all her four children.
During her junior year in high school Melva came down with a life-threatening case of nephritis. It just so happened that her uncle, Dr. Richard Nelson, was doing his internship at Portland Adventist Hospital. When he reviewed her very serious condition, he sternly admonished her with the words, “Young lady (niece), you better take close care of yourself or you won’t be able to have children. Well guess what? Melva took her uncle’s advice very much to heart and pledged to follow her doctor’s orders. She regained her health and much later would become the devoted, loving mom to four healthy offspring.
Melva graduated high school in May 1954. The fall of 1954 found her entering Walla Walla College in Washington. Having taken typing during her years at Laurelwood Academy, it was an easy pick to choose Secretarial Science as a major and Religion/History as a minor. Melva became quite skilled in typing and short hand.
The initial two years of college far exceeded Melva’s expectations with huge class assignments, diligent study, work and socializing. In the Spring of 1956 Melva, along with some of her close friends, was introduced to the “troops”. Among them was her future husband to be…However, it wouldn’t be until two years later that this initial contact would blossom into a life-long friendship/marriage.
Two years later, Melva, with her roommate, Frances Welch, attended a presentation. Harold sang with the group. Sensing Melva’s hesitancy, but knowing she was interested Frances took the initiative and boldly asked Harold, “Do you have room in your car for another passenger?” “Why yes,” came the response. And so, Melva rode home with the quartet, seated in the front seat between Harold and the bass singer, Larry.
After dropping off the rest of the quartet Harold hesitantly asked Melva, “Would you like to go for a short ride out in the countryside, or go for a walk around the campus,” the question was posed. “That would be nice,” came her quiet response.
So… what began as a casual relationship developed into a very serious and steady thing, being together whenever time and opportunity permitted. Melva soon received offers for jobs immediately upon graduation. What to do now with their strong friendship? Both agreed to seek God’s guidance and pray for two weeks.
As soon as the two weeks was up they got together. With a new silver/gold watch, a bottle of Channel No. 5, and his Aurora Duxes pin, Harold sat with a sense of awkward apprehension and suspense. Finally, Harold broke the silence with his much-rehearsed spiel, “Melva, you would make me the happiest man in the world if you would become my wife. Will you marry me?”
“YESS”! With a strong sense of emotional relief, inexpressible joy and happiness filled both of their hearts.
The date for the marriage was soon set. August 24, 1958. Melva and Harold celebrated their 61st anniversary this last August 2019.
After a brief honeymoon to California the couple returned to College Place, Washington, Melva working for the county of Walla Walla and Harold returning to his studies to become a dentist. With only two classes left, Harold lost interest in his studies and dropped out. He got a job in a sawmill. During the next few weeks there was much earnest heart-searching and fervent prayers, both individually and together. They both felt the Good Lord was dramatically calling him to return to his ministerial preparation studies.
He did so. After Harold’s graduation in June 1960 it was off to the SDA Seminary at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan. During their full year there, Melva gave birth to their first child, Mark Howard.
In early spring of 1961, they took their first ministry assignment with the Central Church in Fresno, California. It was also during their stay in Fresno that Melva gave birth to the couple’s second child, Lorinda Jane.
Melva assumed her supportive role as a Minister’s Wife with professional gusto. They had their own two-church district of the Hollister and Gilroy churches and the members of both churches responded in whole-hearted acceptance of the 5’2” small giant with a quick friendly smile and an unpretentious disposition. When it was discovered that she had accounting skills and musical ability playing the piano and organ, Melva would be asked to serve as an Associate Treasurer and fill in at the piano or organ.
In December 1966, at the height of the Vietnam War, Harold responded to the Church’s request for military chaplaincy. Church, seminary and military representatives informed him that he would need more advanced study. Thus, it was off to the seminary two weeks later, the date of October 1966. Being left behind, Melva was tasked with the awesome responsibility of selling their home and packing their few belongings. With determined zeal, Melva was able to find a qualified and ready buyer. With their bank’s help they were able to close escrow within one week!
For two plus years their small family enjoyed Michigan. As Harold’s studies were ending, they learned that Harold would be going Navy, instead of Army as he had requested. Additionally, he was to report to Chaplin Training School in Newport, Rhode Island by March 1969.
Having no reason to stay in Michigan Melva and the kids trekked to Laurelwood, Oregon to stay with her parents while Harold headed to Rhode Island. During that time Melva gave birth to their third child, Eric Nelson. By the middle of July 1969, the family was reunited and lived in a rented home in Oceanside, CA.
Harold soon received orders for overseas duty with the Marines on Okinawa and into Vietnam. For one full year, August ’69 – August ’70, Melva was a single parent with three very young children. Besides raising the children, she also served the Oceanside SDA Church as Assoc. Treasurer, Pianist and Organist. Unfortunately, the lengthy duration of separation and bearing full responsibility for the family was to take its toll on Melva’s health. The result of too much stress caused Melva to come down with a serious case of shingles.
Upon Harold’s return from overseas duty, Melva was taken to the Naval Hospital for treatment. Fortunately, her good health practices contributed to her speedy recovery. A year later Melva became a mother again, giving birth to their 4th child, Heidi Rosina…. Hooorrraaayyy!!!
Years later the family would enjoy family football games… Mom with her two boys against Dad with his two girls. Somehow the games would always end in a tie!
For eight years they lived in Oceanside. On Sabbaths their home was open to welcome both marines and sailors for dinner and games with refreshments. Always a gracious hostess.
In August 1977, Harold received orders to report to the USS Hector, homeported out of Alameda, CA. This would require moving yet again. The family eventually bought a home in Pleasant Hill.
The summer of ’82 brought yet another relocation. This time to Great Lakes, Illinois. With the hopes of someday moving back to Pleasant Hill, Harold and Melva decided to keep their home and rent it out while they were gone from the area.
The next duty assignment for Harold took the family to the East Coast. More precisely, Norfolk VA. Melva, now a proven veteran Navy wife was exceptionally helpful in assisting other spouses and families struggling to cope with lengthy separations. During the years that the family was in Illinois and Virginia, Mark and Lorinda were away at boarding schools, Rio Lindo and PUC.
During the years of ’87 –’90, with all four children away at either academy or college, Melva had more free time to pursue some of her own interests, such as painting, photography and music. She remained active helping at the local SDA church or participating in any possible way at Harold’s chapel services.
In May 1990 Harold received orders to serve the Bay Area Navy Command in Alameda CA, which facilitated a welcome return to their Pleasant Hill home and much closer to a number of their children who had landed in California. Melva happily settled into their familiar home with firm plans of refurbishing it and staying for a long time.
For twelve years Melva was school secretary for the Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy. She formed close friendships with some special people such as Nancy Muth, Nita Balousek and Roseann and Frank Graves. She served with such principals as Jerald Chinnock and Denise White. Her pleasant and winsome demeanor as well as her friendly smile quickly gained the sincere appreciation and love of faculty and students alike, as well as parents.
Being an avid photographer, with her Minolta camera always at the ready, she took many, many pictures of church functions, events, picnics and baptisms. Her pictures would be put into albums or on large cardboard for members to enjoy.
Melva greatly enjoyed traveling. She especially appreciated the NCC sponsored tour to the Holy Land, Israel, Egypt, Petra and all the sacred sites where Jesus walked. Frequently Harold was told by the bus captain, “Harold, get your wife back on the bus on time!”
As mentioned before, another of her many loves was the outdoors. Camping and backpacking in the Sierras, Mt. San Jacinto or Mt. San Gorgonio in Southern California were some of her favorites. The fresh air, the wild animals, the warmth of a campfire, and always with family. She loved the beach, the waves rolling in or splashing on the rocks. She also loved gardening.
And cooking. The kitchen was her domain, even after losing her memory. She had cookbooks and recipes galore. Being a vegetarian almost all her life she could make burgers out of gluten and vege-burger to taste like one of McDonald’s beef burgers. Garlic and onions with Kikkoman sauce, oregano, basil, sage, nuts and oats were always part of the choice ingredients. Marrying into a German family Melva learned how to prepare German dishes such as sauerkraut and knephla, as well as kasse knephla. Yummy! Of course, she had a number of good teachers in her mother-in-law Rosina and her sisters-in-law Elsie and Ruth. Her meals were always healthy and tasty.
Melva had a deep-seated unselfish love for her family. As a Godly mother, she taught her children to love Jesus, the church and the Holy Scriptures. Melva had a fond love and respect for her family of origin. Dad Melvin, Mom Janie, Brothers Bud and Jesse. When her mother passed away unexpectedly in November of 1995, Melva took her loss very hard. Her father lived to be almost 100 years old.
Melva was a lifelong member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, being baptized into the faith at the age of 12. She eagerly looked forward to the coming of Jesus and sincerely hoped He would return in her lifetime. She leaves a legacy of faithful service for her Lord and his people as a humble, devoted servant. She is survived by her husband Harold, brother and sister-in-law Nels and Martha Nelson, son Mark, daughter and son-in-law Lorinda and Jim Smith, son Eric, and daughter and son-in-law Heidi and Mario De La Fuente, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents Melvin and Janie Nelson and her younger brother Jesse Nelson.
Visitation: Tuesday, 4 to 8 pm, January 28, 2020 at OAK PARK HILLS CHAPEL, 3111 N. Main Street, Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Funeral Services, Wednesday, 11 am, January 29, 2020 at PLEASANT HILL SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH, 800 Grayson Rd, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Interment to follow at MEMORY GARDENS CEMETERY, 2011 Arnold Industrial Way, Concord, California 94520
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