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Published April 29, 2012, 12:00 AM

Evelyn Chiabai Nelson

Evelyn Chiabai Nelson, age 89, died Saturday April 21, 2012, at the Golden Living nursing home in La Crescent, MN, with her family at her side.

Evelyn Chiabai Nelson

Evelyn Chiabai Nelson, age 89, died Saturday April 21, 2012, at the Golden Living nursing home in La Crescent, MN, with her family at her side.

Evelyn was born "Mary Louise Chiabai" in Gary, IN on April 28, 1922 to Vincent and Louise (Caucig) Chiabai. She attended school in Gary, IN, and graduated Salutatorian of her class from Lew Wallace High School in 1940. She was always called "Evelyn" by her family and had her name legally changed when she was an adult.

She was married to Raymond Ahlberg Nelson also of Gary, IN, on November 17, 1942 while Ray was serving in the US Army during WWII. Evelyn received her Bachelor of Philosophy Degree from the University of Chicago in 1946. While living in Chicago she worked as an administrative assistant at the Council of State Governments, including the National Governors' Conference. Evelyn frequently shared fond memories of her time and travels during the seven years she worked with the Council.

Evy and Ray moved to Moorhead, MN in 1953 when Ray had accepted a position as English Professor at Concordia College. She lived the greater part of her life (54 yrs) in Moorhead, and during that time was a strong advocate in the support and growth of the visual and performing arts in Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding areas. She was a founding Delegate Assembly member of the Lake Agassiz Arts Council, Managing Editor of the Concordia College Liberal Arts Quarterly, and Treasurer of the North Dakota Association of Symphony Orchestras. Evelyn became the General Manager of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra for 17 passionate years, and in 1983 was recognized for Distinguished Leadership by receiving the "Woman of the Year for the Arts" Award. She worked with Minnesota Public Radio, at the Concordia College/Moorhead location for 11 years before retiring in 1995, and even then continued volunteer work for MPR for many years. She was known for her tireless efforts on behalf of the community and the arts, for her vision and drive for continued growth, and was an inspiration to all those around her. Her kindness, thoughtfulness, and attention to detail in her care and love for friends and colleagues was extraordinary, and was always evident in her beliefs and how she lived her life.

While Evelyn's love for her community and the arts was great, she and her beloved husband of 55 years were also devoted to their family: raising their two children, and then supporting their education, marriages, families, and loving five wonderful grandchildren. Her faith meant a great deal to her and she was a vibrant and active member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Moorhead, MN for over 50 years. In her later years, she lived in La Crosse, WI and La Crescent, MN to be close to her son Doug and his family.

She was preceded in death by her parents, and her two brothers Albert and William Chiabai, and by her husband Raymond Nelson in 1998. She is survived by her sister Gloria (Jack) Costello of Plainfield, IN; daughter Christine (Barry) Peterson of Monument, CO; son Douglas (Cheri Olson) Nelson of La Crescent, MN; and five grandchildren: Lisa Peterson of Palmer Lake, CO; Christopher Peterson of Monument, CO; Alison Nelson of Kirksville, MO; Nicole Nelson of Eau Claire, WI; and Ben Nelson of La Crescent, MN; plus many nieces, nephews, cousins, and second cousins.

Memorial: St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Moorhead, MN, Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:00 A.M.

Burial: Fort Snelling National Cemetery, Minneapolis, MN, Thursday May 10 at 1:00 P.M.

Memorials to honor Evelyn can be given to: FargoMoorhead Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Public Radio, Raymond A. Nelson Scholarship Fund at Concordia College or St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Moorhead, MN.

Mailing Address: c/o Doug Nelson, 102 Kinder Road, La Crescent, MN, 55947

Arrangements: Christine Peterson 719-661-9691