Anita R. Nelson, 81, volunteer at Maryland Historical Society


Anita R. Nelson, a longtime volunteer and guide at the Maryland Historical Society who shared her enthusiasm for the state's history with visitors, died of heart failure March 2 at her Timonium home. She was 81.

Born Anita Marguerite Ross in Seattle, she was raised there and in Spokane and Wenatchee, Wash. She moved to Pasadena, Calif., and earned an associate's degree from Pasadena Junior College in 1944.

She was studying to become a registered nurse when she fell in love and married Edmund Allen Nelson, a Marine Corps pilot from Cambridge. "I brought her back to Cambridge, where we lived until moving to Timonium in 1957," said her husband of 59 years, a retired Marine Corps major.

While living in Cambridge, Mrs. Nelson volunteered with the Red Cross and was president of the women's auxiliary and later a board member of Dorchester County General Hospital.

During the 1970s, Mrs. Nelson was a sales associate at Bendann Art Galleries in Towson, and she began volunteering at the Maryland Historical Society in 1981.

"Anita was a Maryland history buff who always wanted to learn more and was one of our most experienced and dedicated guides," said Erin E. Kimes, associate director for public programs at the historical society.

"She was extremely knowledgeable about the whole museum and made an effort to learn all she could about its various collections so she would be able to answer all of our visitors' questions," said Robin Atwood Fidler, historical society tour coordinator. "She was very committed to her work, and her death is a tremendous loss."

For many years, Mrs. Nelson conducted weekly Elderhostel tours as well as directing the Girl Scout program for Scouts earning various badges.

Always stylishly dressed in tweed suits, Mrs. Nelson was a welcoming presence to young and old.

"She was a wonderful, outgoing lady who always had a certain inner glow," Ms. Fidler said.

"To me, she was the epitome of a gracious lady, and I know that sounds stuffy, but she was far from being stuffy. She was very considerate, kind and sweet, and had the ability to make museum visitors feel at home," said Kit Tubman, a longtime friend and former museum guide. "And she knew her stuff, too, and could easily relate to children as well as adults. She was a wonderful communicator, and they just ate it up."

Since 1957, Mrs. Nelson had been an active member of the Colonel John Streett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as regent from 1970 to 1973.

"Anita was so involved with the DAR and interested in so many, many things, especially the conservation committee which planted trees," said Katherine Scarborough, a longtime friend and DAR member.

She was also a member of Descendants of the Founders of New Jersey, Colonial Dames XVII Century John Waller Chapter in Easton, and the Huguenot Society.

Mrs. Nelson enjoyed cooking and entertaining, and collected Asian art.

"She learned Eastern Shore cooking from my mother, which she combined with her love of West Coast salads," her husband said.

Mrs. Nelson was a member of Towson United Methodist Church, where a memorial service was held Monday.

Also surviving are a son, Patrick Edmund Nelson of Salisbury; a daughter, Shelley Nelson Dyer of Nanticoke; five grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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