Patricia Ann Nelson, an indefatigable Long Island mother of eight, community volunteer and devout Catholic, died Monday after a long battle with cancer.
Nelson, 86, grew up in Chicago and met her husband, Victor, while he was stationed there in the Navy -- when she was 16 and he was 18. Married in 1947, the couple first lived in a trailer without running water, then in student housing next to a pig farm at Purdue University in Indiana, and later moved to Victor's family home in Bethpage, said her son, Bill Nelson of Dix Hills.
In 1962, the family had grown to include seven children, and they moved to Dix Hills. Two years later, their last child, Bill, was born. But even that many children wasn't enough for the Nelsons. Every summer, the family would host one or two children from The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit agency that gives low-income children from New York City the experience of summer in the country.
"She was a tremendous example of what we should be," Bill Nelson said. "It was about her faith, and it was about her family."
Although Patricia Nelson took pains to make each child feel special, she was no pushover, family members said. She worked 25 years at the Half Hollow Hills Public Library as a library assistant and got to know many district teachers, which meant, "we could get away with nothing."
When the family had company over for a meal, Nelson always said, "FHB" -- short for "family hold back." In other words, she was instructing them not to attack the prepared meal all at once and to let guests go first.
She attended Mass every Sunday at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in Melville and sang in the choirs at St. Elizabeth's and St. Hugh's Catholic Church in Huntington Station. She also was an energetic volunteer, giving her time to Meals on Wheels, the Family Service League and a soup kitchen in Wyandanch.
"She gave to so many," Bill Nelson said.
After retiring, she got involved in craft groups. She was so busy her children threatened to get her a beeper so they would know where she was.
In addition to her son and husband, Nelson is survived by her other children, Laura Leonard of Dix Hills; Suzann Schubert of Abington, Pa.; Thomas Nelson of Dix Hills; Victor Nelson of Cairo, N.Y.; Marijean Buhse of Dix Hills; Patricia Nelson-Reade of North Yarmouth, Maine; and Nancy Grosskurth of Dix Hills; 26 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Wednesday 7 to 9 p.m. and Thursday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral will be Friday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church.