Posted on September 14, 2020 Dolores (Dee) Nelson, ABFMS, Thailand alumna, goes home

Dolores (Dee) Queng Hing (Kop) Nelson, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumna, passed away at the age of 89 on August 25, 2020, at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California.  She was born December 17, 1930, in Honolulu, Hawaii to Edward and Alice Kop.  Dee was the first girl in a family of nine children, but the sixth child. During her first eleven years, Dee attended the local school and then each day after school and on Saturday she attended a Chinese language school.

The First Baptist Church was only two houses away from the Kop home. Every Sunday as they went to Church the minister and his wife stopped first for the boys and then Dee and her sisters. Although Dee’s parents never attended the Baptist Church the children were allowed to go. By the time Dee was 11 she had learned a lot about Jesus Christ and wanted to follow in His steps. In 1942, Dee and her sister were baptized and joined the church. With the encouragement of the pastor and some of the church members, Dee became active in the work of the First Baptist Church.

When Dee was about six, a missionary, Mrs. Edith Cooper, came to visit her mother when she was sick and brought comfort to her. Over a period of about five years, Mrs. Cooper called on Dee’s mother off and on even after she was well until she went to heaven. Dee wrote on her application for missionary service, “From her visit I felt the compelling need of doing something for others someday; some way of showing others that God cares for them too. I know my mother appreciated the visit and I felt that Mrs. Cooper was doing just what God told to do: “Visit the sick”.”  Dee was determined to be a servant of God

During the war, some military people who attended the First Baptist Church in Hawaii became interested in Dee’s desire to become a missionary. It was Mrs. Cherry, sister of Mrs. A.O. Larsen, who suggested Sioux Falls College. Dee finished school and worked as a secretary for the Salvation Boy’s Home. She attended the Hawaii Bible School at night.  A few years later the opportunity came, and God prepared a way for Dee to enter Sioux Falls College in South Dakota for her education. Upon arrival, she received word that the Baptist Women of North Dakota wanted to help with her finances by sponsoring her education.

It was at Sioux Falls College that Dee met Rupert Nelson who was also studying at Sioux Falls College. He shared Dee’s desire to become a missionary. After two years of college, Rupert was called into the Army. Dee graduated from Sioux Falls College in 1953. That summer she worked on the student staff at Green Lake and found it to be an inspiration to meet many missionaries. She went on to teach home economics and social science in Ravinia, South Dakota.

When Rupert completed his military service he entered South Dakota State College and graduated in agriculture in 1956. Dee and Rupert then planned to get married, but there was a difficulty. No interracial marriages were allowed in South Dakota at that time. They were then married on September 12, 1956, in Campbell, Minnesota. Their marriage changed that law in South Dakota. Dee went on to further education at South Dakota State College and the University of Wisconsin.

When Dee and Rupert were ready to become missionaries the Mission Board had no funds for an agricultural missionary. Rupert took employment as a County Extension Agent on an Indian Reservation in Montana. The family joined the McCabe Baptist Church in Gulbertson, Montana. It turned out to be good preparation for work abroad. Dee and Rupert were appointed by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) on November 12, 1962, designated to serve in Assam, India. Because of political disturbances in that area, they were delayed in leaving. In the meantime, they both attended the Hartford Seminary Foundation in Hartford, Connecticut studying linguistics and other courses that would help them for missionary work. In October 1963 the Nelsons, including three-year-old Lani, moved to Thailand. Rupert was to be an agricultural advisor and community development worker who was to work with the mountain tribes.

A few months after arrival in Thailand, while Dee and Rupert were studying language, their second child, Rebecca was born. Initially, the Nelsons helped to develop the Namlat United Village School at Chiang Rai, while encouraging village agricultural improvement. Dee was deeply involved in craft teaching and activities. She specialized in weaving and the use of wool, as well as designing cloth and garments. She taught wool-dying and spinning and the natural dying of cotton threads.  Dee managed to isolate the roots, barks and other natural dyes that the Karen woman used, learned to know them and their limitations and values, and how to help them to use them as fast dyes.

She assisted the students to market their products. One time she helped a group of Karen women produce 18 large tapestries for a hotel in Pattaya.  At the Center for the Uplift of Hill Tribes and at the New Life Center, she taught hand sewing, machine sewing, and pattern drafting (for school uniforms), embroidery, knitting, crochet, quilting and the making of dolls dressed in tribal costumes.  Dee also worked with women students at the Center encouraging them to develop more nutritious diets. She served for three years as chairperson of the Board of the Thai Tribal Crafts Shop in Chiang Mai.

In December 1996, after 34 years of service, Dee and Rupert retired. They left Thailand in June 1996. In August they joined Central Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas as Missionaries in Residence.  They team taught Mission courses with Dr. Robert Fulop and were available to talk with students about their mission experience. It was new for them, but they found it interesting and challenging. At the end of the seminary year the Nelsons moved to Bozeman, Montana.

While in Bozeman Dee and Rupert were very active with the First Baptist Church. Dee was a member of the ABWM, the Bible Study group and the prayer group. Dee and Rupert eventually moved to Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California and there they joined the First Christian Church in Pomona, CA.

Dee is survived by her husband, Rupert, and two children: Lani Kieffer of East Dubuque, Illinois and Rebecca Nelson of Columbus, Ohio.  In addition to Dee’s beloved husband Rupert and daughters Lani (Jeff) and Rebecca, she is also survived by siblings Norma, Janis, and Stanley, sister-in-law Marion Nelson, grandchildren April, Jessie, Joann, Jacob, Miranda and Anya.  Grandson Jonah preceded her in death.  She is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews, extended family members and friends.

A virtual Celebration of Life will take place on October 3, 2020.  The Pilgrim Place volunteers who are helping with the development of the virtual Celebration of Life won’t have a link ready to share until later this month.