Life-long St. Rose parishioner recalls years at school, parish


DENISON – Even though Nellie Petersen is no longer able to attend Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church, she has remained a parishioner for her entire life – 103 years.

Petersen, who now gets around with a walker, lives in the Silveridge Assisted Living Center in Denison.Petersen, Nellie6-29

Nellie (Gremonprez) Petersen was born on a farm on March 15, 1914. She had three sisters. She received all of her sacraments at St. Rose of Lima in the old church building.

For the first two of her eight school years, Petersen boarded with the nuns in the convent.

“When we boarded there, we had big ribbons in the back of our hair,” she said. “Sister Ignatius would fix our hair in the morning. She was good, but some of them (the nuns), I don’t know.”

Nellie and her husband Harry Petersen, who was from Schleswig, were married at St. Rose of Lima in 1941. The couple lived on a farm and had four children – Jim, Darryl and Tom Petersen and Judy Cose. Petersen has eight grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

All of her children also received all of their sacraments at St. Rose of Lima. Her daughter Judy still lives in Denison and her children attended St. Rose of Lima School. Her son Tom lives in New Mexico and her other two sons are now deceased.

Through the years, Petersen was a member of the Legion of Mary and the Ladies Guild at St. Rose of Lima. She remembers helping with parish dinners and funerals.

“I made a lot of food for the parish dinners and funerals,” she said with a big grin on her face. “I did a lot of cooking in my life. On a farm years ago you did a lot of cooking with all the men to feed.”

Looking back at her life, one of Petersen’s fondest memories was taking a balloon ride when she and her husband were visiting their son in New Mexico.

“That was quite a thrill,” she said.

Petersen has now lived in assisted living for four years. Before that she lived in an apartment with Harry until he died a few years ago at the age of 99. They were married for more than 70 years.

Though Petersen is not able to attend Mass at St. Rose, Father Paul Kelly visits her on occasion. She receives Communion from Deacon Rob Claypool on Sundays and on Tuesdays, she recites the rosary with the Legion of Mary. For more than 50 years, Petersen used a book of prayers that she has now passed on to her grandson because she can no longer see to read it.

“He said his kids have enjoyed it,” she said.

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