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Her abilities help enrich community

(ran PT edition)

Norma Nelson, 76, has a deep sense of commitment to her family and her community.

She was brought up "an old-fashioned Italian girl" in New York City, married William E. "Ed" Nelson, a career Navy man, when she was 21, and moved to San Diego, Calif., where he was stationed.

"This was a whole new world to me," she recalled. As a Navy wife and mother of two, she learned to take on many new responsibilities when Ed was away on duty.

Mrs. Nelson has devoted her time and talents to Pasco County since 1968, when she and her husband settled here after Ed retired from his 26-year Naval career. "I loved Arizona," she said, of their seven-year stint there. "It was probably the most favorite place in my life. We had a small ranch of 60 acres with a cow, goats, chickens and a peach orchard. We had a wonderful time there, and the children loved it. The only drawback was flash flooding, a terrifying experience."

She found beauty in every place they were stationed.

Once settled in Florida, she was employed in the computer division of Tampa General Hospital for five years and retired from New Port Richey Community Hospital after 20 years. For her dedication to her work, she was named Employee of the Month twice. She was a frequent contributor to Heartline, the hospital monthly magazine. She wrote a column "Data from Data." She has always been interested in writing and has a children's story she hopes to get published.

She was one of the original founders of the Historical Society in New Port Richey and has served as president twice; at the same time she was president of the Earth Science Club. She has planned and overseen an annual spring fashion show for the Historical Society for the past 15 years.

She enjoys painting though "I am a rotten painter," she said, but others disagree. Her artistic talent has produced numerous portraits of historical personalities, which have been displayed at the Historical Society Museum, at the New Port Richey Library, the county building and Community Hospital. She has been in demand to speak to civic groups and Scouts and use her portraits to relate the history of Florida to her audiences. She is a born storyteller.

She is something of a rock hound and has a small collection. In 1994, she spent a month in Belize exploring the Mayan pyramids. She extended her trip to Tikal, Guatemala, to explore the Mayan capital.

She is a Star Trek fan and attends conventions where she interacts with the actors. She said she is usually the oldest person attending.

A physical problem has not slowed her down. She currently serves on the West Pasco Preservation Board and attends meetings, she is a member of RSVP and volunteers six hours a week at Marchman Technical Education Center in New Port Richey in the Adult English for Speakers of Other Languages class. She is attending a two-hour a week Spanish course there. She said she is now in a "quiet period of time" but feels there is so much more to do. "I want to learn more about painting. I don't think I am a real artist, and I want to learn more."

After 50 years of marriage, she was widowed four years ago.

She feels fortunate to have her family nearby. Her two children, Toni and William E. Jr., are both married, two of her grandchildren attend college and another graduated recently with a degree in engineering.