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Lida Ruth Nelson

October 18, 1936 - December 1, 2019

Born in 1936, just minutes after her fraternal twin Virginia, to Marion and Louis Needels, Ruth Nelson first lived in LeRoy, Illinois where her father was the town’s family doctor.  In 1943 at seven, Ruth, her sister and her mother moved to Southern California while her father served as a Naval physician during World War 2. During that time, her older brother Paul lived with their grandparents in Missouri. Shortly after the war ended, Ruth moved with her family to Santa Barbara, California, where she spent the rest of her childhood. 

Watching and admiring her father at work, Ruth decided at a young age that she too wanted to study medicine. In 1958 Ruth graduated from UCLA with a BS in Nursing. Soon after completing her undergraduate degree, she attended Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena to prepare to serve as a medical missionary. It was there she met her husband, Dr. Ronald Nelson. After their year at Fuller,  the two were married and moved to Seattle where Ruth worked as a public health nurse and Ron started his residency at Harborview Hospital. The next year they were given the chance to live out their dream to enter the medical missionary field and were  assigned to a 40-patient hospital in Ethiopia , where Ruth taught local residents to be “dressers” (nurses, lab technicians, etc.) and Ron was the lead doctor. After a year in Ethiopia, Ruth and Ron returned to the States so that Ron could further his surgical training. Giving birth to her son Dan shortly after their return, the young couple lived in Bellevue while Ron completed his surgical residency. In 1965 their son Peter was born. While raising her children, Ruth was active at Crossroads Baptist Church in Bellevue.

Ruth returned to the Southern California sunshine and blue skies in 1968, for Ron’s work as a cardiac surgeon at Harbor General Hospital (now Harbor UCLA Medical Center). Their daughter Kristen was born at this time. The family settled in Palos Verdes Estates where they lived for 36 years. While raising her children and caring for two dogs and quite a few cats through the years, Ruth taught Sunday school at Rolling HIlls Covenant Church, later serving as the Director of Christian Education. She also organized and led  women’s Bible study groups for many years, later moving to and becoming very active in St. Peter’s By the Sea Presbyterian Church.

In 1983, Ruth returned to Fuller Theological Seminary where, four years later, she obtained  a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy and set up a private practice at Peninsula Counseling Center.  In addition to touching many lives through her counseling, she also enjoyed teaching classes designed to develop assertiveness and parenting skills. 

In 1991 Ron and Ruth moved to Santa Monica where Ron took a position as Chief of Cardiac Surgery at St. John’s Hospital and bought a condominium overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which they loved. Ruth expanded her counseling practice and also attended First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica.

Being physically active was important to Ruth and brought her much joy. An avid tennis player, Ruth also ran 10Ks and half-marathons, walked 4-6 miles 3-4 times a week, and backpacked in the Sierra Nevadas with her family. She also led backpack trips for groups of women and enjoyed knitting. 

In 2007 Ruth and Ron moved to Seattle, Washington to live closer to their son, Dan and his family and in 2009 moved into Skyline Retirement Community where she lived for ten more years and made many friends. Ron and Ruth also reconnected with many life-long friends from their years in Seattle in the 1960s. While Ruth struggled with the effects of Parkinson’s disease for many years, her warm smile and her beautiful blue eyes never failed to touch every person she encountered. 

A loving wife, mother, and grandmother, Ruth is survived by her husband of 58 years, Ronald Nelson; eight grandchildren, her children and their spouses, Dan and Kathryn Nelson, Pete and Natalie Nelson, Kristy and Dave Hubbelll; her sister Virginia and her brother Paul and his wife Jeanette; and her brother-in-law Wayne and his wife Melissa. Ruth was preceded in death by her mother Marion Needels, and her father, Louis Needels and her brother-in-law Donald Valentine.

A memorial service will be held at 2pm, Sat., 2/22/20 at Skyline at First Hill in the Mt. Baker Room, 725 9th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104.  Please RSVP by calling Dan Nelson at 206-972-0598 email or by calling Kristen Nelson Hubbell at 801-702-7456 email In Lieu of flowers memorial donations may be sent to The Michael J. Fox Foundation on Ruth Nelson’s Tribute Page. 


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