Nelle Louise Larson, 88, a lifelong East Toledoan who this year was named an Educator of the Year by the East Toledo Family Center, died yesterday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.
She died from complications from surgery performed in July for cancer, said her daughter, Darla Holycross.
A 1936 Waite High graduate, the former Nelle Sipe received a one-year scholarship to the University of Toledo because she had the highest grades of any girl in her class. She paid the rest of her tuition to earn her education degree by working in the university's education office, her daughter said. She married Donald Larson in 1939.
Mrs. Holycross said her mother's teaching career began in Monclova Township, but she soon moved to Toledo Public Schools. She taught at Navarre Elementary School for 25 years, starting with fifth-grade classes for five years, then junior-high classes for 20.
Before she retired in 1979, she was chairman of the English department at East Toledo Junior High, which closed last year. Even after she retired, she was a substitute teacher for several additional years.
"She was just a born teacher," Mrs. Holycross said.
Earlier this year, the East Toledo Family Center honored her with the Richard J. Fisher Educator of the Year Award for being a key source of inspiration to students.
Mrs. Larson told The Blade in April how she felt about being honored at the family center's annual Renaissance Gala. "I'm very thrilled," she said at the time. "I just could hardly believe it. I'm retired, of course, and haven't taught for a while, but teaching has been a very great pleasure for me."
Another great pleasure was traveling with her husband, who died in 2001. They owned a camper in which they visited all of the lower 48 states, their daughter said.
She went to Hawaii in 2002 with a son but had never been to Alaska. But two family members who will soon be going to the northernmost state are armed with a lock of Mrs. Larson's hair to leave there. "The only place she hadn't gone was Alaska but we're going to make sure she gets to Alaska," Mrs. Holycross said.
Though she loved to travel, she loved East Toledo even more, her daughter said. "She loved to be the person who knew everybody," Mrs. Holycross said. "She was one of those people who puts down roots and spreads out her branches, but loved to be in one spot."
But she never returned from trips without a salt and pepper shaker set as a souvenir, amassing a collection that reached more than 5,000 sets.
"She has an entire bookcase of just wooden ones," Mrs. Holycross said. "They're in the shape of everything. They're just mind-boggling."
Mrs. Larson used her collection of shakers in programs highlighting historical and anecdotal information.
She also used sheet music she and her husband collected to explain the history of local music and musicians to such organizations as the Oregon Historical Society and church groups, said Linda Calcamuggio, another daughter.
In addition, Mrs. Larson was active in the East Toledo Historical Society, Friends of the Locke Branch Library, and the Feed Your Neighbor program.
"She just always seemed to be a woman who was one step ahead of her era," Mrs. Calcamuggio said.
Surviving are her sons, Dennis and Lars; daughters, Darla Holycross and Linda Calcamuggio; eight grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
Friends may call at the Eggleston-Meinert-Pavley Funeral Home in Oregon from 2 to 9 p.m. Thursday. Services will be at 11 a.m. Friday in the funeral home, 440 South Coy Rd.
The family suggests tributes to the Waite High Scholarship Fund, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Old Newsboys Goodfellows Association, or a charity of the donor's choice.