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Elder Nelson's wife, Dantzel, dies at age 78

Dantzel Nelson, wife of heart surgeon Elder Russell M. Nelson of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, died Saturday, Feb. 12, 2005, at her Salt Lake home.

Sister Nelson was 78. Her husband was with her when she died.

The cause of death was not immediately known, said Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Dale Bills. An LDS Church comment was not immediately available.

In Saturday's Church News, Elder Nelson said that during their early years of marriage, his wife never murmured about making do on very little.

"We have dealt with disappointment, disease and death among our children," he said. "But death cannot divide families sealed in the temple. The period of separation is only temporary."

Sister Nelson was named Dantzel White at her birth on Feb. 17, 1926, on the family farm in Perry, Box Elder County.

Her life-long love of music was inspired by a sister's childhood illness. As a preschooler, she participated in singing lessons orchestrated by her bedridden sister. After the older sister's lengthy convalescence and return to Box Elder High School, she invited Dantzel to perform at numerous school assemblies.

Later, Sister Nelson's many musical connections at the University of Utah provided a setting for her courtship with Russell M. Nelson. They met as cast members in the musical, "Hayfoot, Strawfoot."

The couple utilized the Bamberger Railroad (to Ogden) and Utah Idaho Central (north of Ogden) to visit her family in Perry. He proposed to her in the family pea patch. They married in the Salt Lake Temple Aug. 31, 1945.

During their early married years, finances were tight. Both were attending school. Finally, Sister Nelson graduated from college and landed a teaching job during the day. At night, she worked as a clerk in a music store.

During those lean years, they also sold their blood, something that led the young medical student to suspect that Sister Nelson's mother "didn't think her daughter had much of a husband."

Following her husband's medical education path, the pair lived in Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Boston, then returned to Salt Lake City in 1956.

The Nelsons are the parents of nine daughters and one son. Marsha N. McKellar, Wendy N. Maxfield, Gloria N. Irion, Brenda N. Miles, Sylvia N. Webster, Laurie N. Marsh, Rosalie N. Ringwood, Marjorie N. Helsten and Russell M. Nelson Jr. One of their daughters, Emily Nelson Wittwer, preceded her in death on Jan. 29, 1995.

They have 54 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

Sister Nelson was a dedicated mother but always took time to serve in the community and her church. Always involved in the educational activities of her children, she participated in PTA service in the schools. She was a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for 20 years.

Sister Nelson graduated as the "Outstanding Senior Girl" at Box Elder High School in Brigham City, then attended the U. on scholarship. Awarded a bachelor's of science degree in education with a secondary certification, she taught music and speech at the Hawthorne Elementary School in Salt Lake City and took a teaching assignment in Minneapolis the following year.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Material from Deseret Morning News files, Church Almanac, Elder Nelson's autobiography, "From Heart to Heart", and his biography,"Russell M. Nelson: Father, Surgeon, Apostle."