Edna Nelson was surprised and honored when members of the St. Pat's Board knocked on her apartment door last week. They presented her with a green feather boa and told her she would be the 2012 Grand Marshal for the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
"I was really surprised," said Edna. "But, I didn't know if I was worthy."
The folder of nomination letters flooded St. Pat's Headquarters. Letters came from children and grandchildren, fri-ends and neighbors. There is a list of over 200 names that wanted Edna to serve as Grand Marshal. Yes, she is "worthy."
St. Pat’s Grand Marshal Edna Nelson is pictured with her “Irish Roots.” The photos on the wall tell the story:?her parents (upper, left) Leo and Nellie Conway; and her father, Leo, pictured (upper, right) playing the fiddle that hangs on the wall. Music is a big part in Edna’s life. The photo below (right) is William and Blanche Nelson. --Jane Whitmore photo
Over the years, Edna has been a volunteer with the St. Patrick's Association. She was chairman of the queen committee for several years. And she did her share of making signs.
The Nelsons routinely host the Irish dignitary on a farm tour, especially to see the cattle. When they once went to Chuck and Edna's farm, they now go to the younger Nelsons'.
Edna has never missed a St. Pat's Parade.
"My love of music and cooking
comes from my Irish roots."
"My dad, Leo Conway, was Grand Marshal in 1989," remembers Edna. "The kids look so little in those pictures."
Edna Conway Nelson can trace her Irish roots back to the Hickey and Conway families that settled in Emmetsburg. They came in the fall, after the original settlement by the river had been established.
Edna's grandfather, James Hickey, was the first judge of Palo Alto County. Her father, Leo Conway, was appointed the first assessor of Palo Alto County.
Edna is the third oldest of nine children:?Florence (deceased), Lucille, Edna, Alice, Leo (the only boy, and right in the middle), Delores, Mary Ellen, Virginia and Frances.
"Music was always a big part of our family," said Edna. "Dad played the banjo, the guitar and the fiddle. A few of us girls played the piano by ear."
The Conway girls always observed St. Pat's.
"When we were in country school, every St. Pat's mom would make a green ribbon for our hair," Edna recalls. "We always observed St. Patrick's Day in some way. We grew up Irish."
Edna and Chuck Nelson were married in 1950. Chuck came from Nebraska in the early 1940s and the couple met at a dance.
The Nelsons have nine children: Richard (Dick) of Emmetsburg, LuAnn O'Brien of Emmetsburg, Bill of Oklahoma City, Charles (Chuck)?of Ames, James (Jim) of Emmetsburg. Janet Klein of Hospers, John of Ames and Steve of Palo. Grandchildren and great grandchildren total 50:?24 grand and 26 great grand.
All of the Nelson children plan to be in Emmetsburg for St. Patrick's Day this year, along with a lot of the Conway family. The clan plans a gathering at the Parish Center.
Edna and some of her sisters went to Ireland in 2000. A series of photos on Edna's wall commemorates that trip, bringing back fond memories.
Edna loves to cook and bake; music is always playing in her apartment; and she loves to write, often in the form of poetry. In her "next life,"?Edna has decided she will either be a musician or a writer.
"Dad was a great one for family history," said Edna. Following in his footsteps, Edna gave a presentation on the Conway-Hickey Irish Settlers during the 2010 St. Pat's Celebration.
She wrote a little ditty to the tune of the Irish Washer Woman: "There are Nolan's, McEvoy's, Murphy's and Drew's;
"Kliegl's, McNally's and my brother Leo;
"Ruddy's, Hickey's and O'Brien's, too;
"The list is so long, I think that will do."
Edna will have a busy St. Patrick's weekend, attending various events. She will wear her green boa and her bright smile as she brightens the day.