Nelson, Connie Lorraine

Written by ECA Review

Connie Lorraine Nelson
April 26, 1955 – Oct. 27, 2022

Connie Lorraine Nelson (nee MacKenzie) went home to be with her Lord after a courageous battle with cancer on Thurs. Oct. 27, 2022 at age 67.

Connie was born on April 26, 1955 and was raised in Calgary, the second oldest of six girls.

Connie was actively involved in Girl Guides, gymnastics, field hockey and the church where she sang in the choir, played handbells and helped lead Explorers. She loved to read and her habit of reading under the covers at bedtime backfired one night when her lightbulb caught her pillow on fire!

Connie graduated from high school and went to Bible college where she met some amazing lifelong friends. Connie’s faith blossomed there and she continued to live her life as a strong woman of God.

She married Frank Matthews, a British soldier who was doing military training in Canada in 1976 and three children were born to this union.

The Matthews extended family took Connie in and immediately loved her. She was adored by all her new English sisters and brothers, but especially by her new in-laws. The relationship Connie had with the Matthews family continued to be strong over the years, and they are devastated over Connie’s passing.

Frank and Connie lived the military life on bases in Germany, France, Scotland and England. Two of their children, Krista (1977) and Aaron (1978) were born in England and not long after Connie and Frank moved back to Canada, Cheney (1979) was born.

After her marriage ended, she worked and raised her three children who, at the time, were all under four years of age, first for a few years in Calgary, then Ponoka, before moving to Lethbridge to take her teaching degree. With limited funds, late-night studies, do-it-yourself home repairs, and middle-of-the-night emergency hospital visits with asthmatic kids, she graduated in 1988 with her degree.

Connie and her children moved to Duchess, Alta. where she started off as a kindergarten teacher. Connie found love and acceptance within the church in Duchess and true lifelong friends who helped and supported her as she raised her children alone and taught full time. Eventually, she moved up to teaching Grades 1-3. She would later teach in Tilley, Airdrie, Brooks and lastly Red Deer before retiring in June 2016.

In her younger years, Connie liked to hike in the mountains with her children. In particular, she loved the big night sky where she could watch the stars.

It was a blind date in November 2006 that took her to Red Deer as it was love at first sight and Connie and Doug Nelson were married in Red Deer on July 6, 2007. She soon became a most loved person in her ‘new family’, new church, new school, and new community of friends in Red Deer. For both Doug and Connie, it was an unplanned and unexpected gift of companionship later in life. For the first time in decades, they had someone that knew and shared their feelings, hopes, vulnerabilities, fears and desires.

She continued teaching and always rejoiced as each student reached their reading grade level or conquered timed math facts.

An example of Connie’s impact on touching lives was when students she had taught in Duchess in Grades 1, 2 and 3 invited her back to be the guest speaker at their Grade 12 graduation. Doug became her education assistant in the evenings marking lessons when he retired from trucking, jokingly noting he always avoided homework when he was in school.

Teaching is not only what Connie did, but it became a part of her identity. Connie touched hundreds of children’s lives over the years with her patience, understanding and kindness whether in school or elsewhere. Connie was highly regarded as a teacher by parents, students, and colleagues.

A good example of her going above and beyond was the annual Christmas dinner that she cooked for her Grade 3 class. She knew many of her students in Red Deer had never tasted a traditional Christmas dinner or even shared a sit-down family meal. She prepared turkey, mashed potatoes and all the fixings each year for her classes.

Her commitment was to Jesus Christ and His love shone through her onto everyone who met or knew Connie. Connie most of all found joy in doing things for others whether that was cooking a meal, reading stories to kids, listening, consoling others, or filing government papers on behalf of permanent residents or refugees. Connie put everyone above herself without thought or hesitation, even when she was in pain and suffering herself.

Another example of her caring for others was when a child from a refugee camp, Koroma, arrived in her Grade 3 classroom, scared and unable to speak English. Now graduated from high school, Koroma, his mother and his four siblings remained close to Connie and Doug. He wrote to Mrs. Nelson after she became ill.

“Being that wild child that I was, you were the first to care and who really took the time to help me far beyond what was required. And you never stopped there, you took it upon yourself to help my family, especially my mother. The kindness and love you gave us is endless. The thank you from us is endless. We are forever grateful.”

When Connie retired they had more time to golf and camp with family and friends and enjoy the grandkids. Connie and Doug did some international travel and were able to go back and spend time with Connie’s relatives in England.

Connie liked to bake and especially delighted in teaching her children and grandchildren, some as young as three years old. With their home in Red Deer, Connie and Doug often were the ones hosting and cooking meals for large family events. They also became actively involved in Bethany Baptist church helping with meals for seniors once a week, among other things.

Connie bravely fought liver cancer for two years with grace and without complaint. Throughout, she was still more concerned for others than herself. It will be unbelievably hard without Connie, but her example and her unwavering faith in Jesus Christ will also be our strength and comfort moving forward.

A Celebration of Life took place Tues. Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. at Deer Park Alliance Church, 2960 – 39 St. Red Deer, Alta. Her interment was on Wed. Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. at the Coronation Cemetery in Coronation, Alta.

Connie will be lovingly remembered by her husband of 15 years, Doug Nelson; her children, Krista Matthews, Aaron (Chrystal) Matthews, Cheney Matthews; grandchildren Tyson Penrod, Cheyenna Penrod; stepchildren, Joel (Jamie) Nelson, Deirdre (Timothy) Hann; grandchildren Tristan Nelson, Lucas Nelson, Carrington Hann, and Leighton Hann.

She will also be dearly missed by her mother Florence MacKenzie, sisters Donna (Clay) Robinson, Carol (Gary) Henderson, Linda (Rob) Fauth, Christina (Mike) Klassen; sisters-in-law Joyce Webster and Brenda Schimke; nieces, nephews and numerous other family members and friends.

Connie was predeceased by her father Murdo MacKenzie (2018), sister Margaret MacKenzie (1974) and brother-in-law Dennis Schimke (2011).
Donations gratefully accepted in memory of Connie to: Red Deer Hospice, 99 Arnot Ave. Red Deer T4R 3S6; Hope Mission, The Mustard Seed or a charity of one’s choice.

Eventide Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. 403-347-2222;

Tribute to Connie Nelson
Connie would make a room glow when she walked in, with her big smile and sparkling blue eyes, her calm, empathetic spirit would radiate to those around her. She had an incredible amount of patience and a kind and gentle soul that people were drawn to.

Connie was a humanitarian, she had a heart for the vulnerable, those who suffered and those needing help. Throughout her lifetime, she demonstrated a servant heart whether it was helping a friend clean their house, opening her home to some of Krista’s struggling friends, or helping someone in need by putting together food hampers or providing toys for those families with none.

Connie grew up in a busy household in Calgary. She was the second oldest of six girls. The home was filled with piano playing, made-up skits, singing, giggly girls and lots of love.

The outdoors was her playground, where along with her sisters and neighbourhood friends, they rode bikes, skipped, hopscotched, swam, played tennis, went tobogganing and sought out adventure in Edworthy Park.

She enjoyed her family times, especially weekends, when she and her sisters would make popcorn, watch cartoons and TV shows, visit the candy store and play board games—of course, after all the household chores and piano lessons, were complete!

Connie would lean on God for her strength throughout the years and she would pray daily for those she loved and for many others who crossed her path.

Her children remember their mom as loving, dedicated and hardworking. She liked ice cream, especially Dairy Queen soft ice cream and chocolate chip mint.

A highlight for Connie was going with her children and grandchildren to the family cabin at Radium for summer holidays. She enjoyed the mountains, the star-lit sky, hiking and swimming in both the lake and the hot springs. It was an opportunity for the kids to blow off excess energy and it gave Connie a much-needed break to rest and recharge.

Connie worked extremely hard to provide for her family after her marriage ended when the three children were aged four and under.

She worked hard for her education degree at the same time as raising her children graduating in 1988. Her children who would have been 10, 11 and 12 years of age grumble to this day that she made them sit for three hours to watch her walk across the stage and receive her degree!

It was one of Connie’s friends from Bible college, Bev Polson, who just happened to be married to Doug’s boss, Tim, who decided Doug and Connie should meet. Both had been alone for some time, but they took the bait and went on a blind date in November 2006. It was love at first sight and they were married in Red Deer on July 6, 2007.

Connie’s youngest sister, Christina, recalled that after Connie met Doug, “There was a new Connie, like a giddy teenager, her smile beamed from ear to ear.” She wrote. “Her wedding day was the happiest I had seen her in a long time. I never imagined how touched I would feel seeing my sister so in love. Then there was the added gift of Joel and Deirdre and their families.”

Connie had said, “it was the best 15 years of my life”. She now had a helpmate to share the load. Doug loved to lavish her with gifts, not that she ever got really comfortable with being spoiled. Her forte was spoiling and serving others.

For both Doug and Connie, it was an unplanned and unexpected gift of companionship later in life. For the first time in decades, they had someone that knew and shared their feelings, hopes, vulnerabilities, fears and desires.

Stepdaughter, Deirdre, said “Connie brought together our blended families. She included everyone and welcomed my mom and my mom’s family with open arms. I’m just so sad that my little girls had such a short time with her.”

Connie loved her grandchildren and enjoyed every opportunity she had to babysit. One of Connie’s favourite days was when grandson Tyson was born, tears of joy and love washed over Connie’s face when she first held her grandson in her arms.

The day Connie’s second grandchild, Cheyenna, was born she had surgery for breast cancer so couldn’t see her for a week. But her weakness and pain didn’t stop Connie from holding her as soon as she could. Tyson and Cheyenna loved spending time with nan, rushing to greet her every time they saw her.

She always took time to write special letters to her grandchildren. Cheyenna cherishes the letter she received from nan at her Grade 12 graduation. While nan was in hospice, she wrote these words, “I am now smarter and wiser growing up with you as one of my role models. Watching you as such a brave, strong and caring woman you have taught me so much, and I am so grateful to have you as an example.”

Knowing that her time with her youngest grandchildren would be short, she wrote special cards to each of them. Three-year-old Carrington was insistent that her card go with her everywhere including bed and playtime. It is now laminated and when you visit their home, one of the first things she’ll show you is her card and a picture of grandma.

One of Connie’s lasting gifts to her young grandsons, Lucas and Tristan, was to teach them to bake and cook, as she had done before with her children and older grandchildren.

Grandma had all her little grandchildren brought to her bedside to tell them she would be leaving soon and going to heaven. On the way home, 6-year-old Tristan said, “My heart is crying.” That night 8-year-old Lucas, on his way to bed, ran back to his parents with stress in his voice saying, “but grandma hasn’t taught me how to make cherry pie yet!”

Teaching is not only what Connie did, but it became a part of her identity. Connie touched hundreds of children’s lives over the years with her patience, understanding and kindness whether in school or elsewhere. Connie was highly regarded as a teacher by parents, students, and colleagues.

Her love and commitment to Jesus Christ shone through in Connie’s selfless acts of love for everyone that crossed her path. She was our family prayer warrior. At the end, her concern was for Doug, her children and her grandchildren.

“Your example and your unwavering faith in Jesus Christ will also be our strength and comfort moving forward. “


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