Cottage cheese with pepper, a laugh that makes you think she has an inside joke. Chocolate, especially Dove Darks were a favorite. Numbers… she loved numbers and figuring out problems with numbers; it was like a puzzle to her to piece it together. She was rarely in a rush and took time to do the things that mattered. She bit her nails and loved chocolate cake, but without the frosting. Some might say she was OCD with the house cleaning with incredible attention to cleaning the windows – inside and outside. She had a thing about the dandelions in the yard and would make the kids dig them up one by one with a knife and a spoon from the kitchen. She valued crunchy Cheerios, eating small little bowls so the milk wouldn’t make them soggy, and she loved to sit in the dark on the porch during a thunderstorm.
These are just a few of the small and quirky bits about who Delores Louise Neilson was. It is impossible to capture the essence of a soul and the accomplishments of a life. This letter will be inadequate, but it is all we have aside from our memories. Let’s go back in time for a moment and remember who this woman, daughter, mother, sister, and friend was…
In 1932, Delores was born to Lee and Alice Newell Davis. She had two younger brothers, Dick, who later married Deane, and Kenny, who married Beck and later was married to Char. They lived on the north side of Peoria not far from the old church on Park and Madison. Her parents, aunts and uncles were all involved in the church and modeled the value of using one’s gifts and talents in service to others. She discovered her love of music, and this developed into a lifetime of music creation and collaboration. She began lessons at 8 years old and started playing the piano at church services when she was 14 years old and later played the organ and keyboards as well. She played piano for countless weddings and endless hours preparing for regular and special worship services. She accompanied special solo and ensemble performances and was a well-respected member of the Church of God-Anderson musician community in the Peoria area.
Delores grew up and later met James Price when he was visiting the Church of God. Of course, she was playing the piano that day and Jim told his Uncle Merle that she was the girl he was going to marry. They were married on August 18, 1950, began a family, and lived in North Carolina. However, 4 years after they wed, Jim died tragically in an accident and Delores was suddenly a grieving single mother with 2 children, Suzan Gail who was 2, and Lora Lynn was just 4 months old. Delores and the girls moved back to Peoria to live with her parents for love and support and to heal from this unthinkable turn of events.
In time, she was introduced through friends and family to Leroy Neilson who was working at Cohen’s furniture at the time. Life shifted again for Delores and a new future began to take shape. She married Leroy on June 2, 1956. He had a son, Bob and Delores had Sue and Lori and then together, they added three more to the mix. Connie Jo, then Ellen Marie followed by Leroy Marshall Jr. By this time, they had moved to the house on Arcadia Street. There were so many family times shared there; many of you might recall this house and meaningful time spent there. Delores was quite busy raising this herd of children, but she was always involved in other things in addition to her musical talents. She helped Leroy start his own LM&N carpet business and ran the accounting and bookkeeping side of things. Later she took her organizational and numbers skills to Lum’s Restaurant working as a bookkeeper there for over 15 years.
Delores and Leroy’s home was a gathering place for Bible studies and small groups. Delores created a home filled with music. Between piano practice for upcoming services, special performers, Thursday night practice for the Teen Tones, music was always around. Her children would play the soundtrack for Babes in Toyland over and over and ask Delores to play the “fast fingers songs” like Twinkle Toes, Flight of the Bumble Bee, or Bumble Boogie. Music was all they knew because it is what she brought to her home and her family, as well to others.
Delores regularly went along with the pastor and church members to the South Side Mission and Peoria City Mission to play piano for those that had fallen on rough times. She also served the church and gave her talents well beyond her music. She had a tender heart and seemed to notice people who were on the edges and those that needed a friend.
Over time, the children grew and developed lives of their own. After 53 memorable years, Leroy died in 2009 and once again she experienced the ache of loss and being on her own, but this time she was surrounded by her family and by their families. Not only did she have 5 children and a stepson, but she had 10 grandchildren and 9 great grandchildren. She always enjoyed her grandkids and was a very proud grandmother. She was the matriarch of this beautiful family. As mentioned earlier, it is hard to capture a multidimensional, complex, ever-growing person into a few words and memories, but each of us carry some of who she was and what she offered to others. Her memory is complete only when we can hear from every person, and everyone touched by her life. Since we can’t do that, here are some of the words of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren to describe her:
Loving, Faithful, Talented, Devoted, Steadfast, Caring, Puzzles, Joyful,
Smiling, Stunning, Best Listener, Present, and Thankful.
Delores surrounded herself with JOY. Quite literally with the word JOY. It is with JOY now that we celebrate and remember who she was and is to us all.
Visitation: Thursday, November 4, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Service: Thursday, November 4 at 1:00 pm
Both will be held at Mt Hawley Community Church
Memorials to Mt. Hawley Community Church, 6900 North Mt. Hawley Road, Peoria, IL 61614 or South Side Mission, 1127 South Laramie Street, Peoria, IL 61605
To send flowers to Delores' family, please visit our floral store.