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The Rev. Lois Neilsen, of Narragansett, passed away peacefully on May 22, while her oldest daughter, Debbie Kane, and her oldest granddaughter, Jennifer Kubrynski, held her hands in a quiet moment of serenity and tender love. Lois had reached the glorious age of 90 and had lived a long life of love and service and faith.
Lois was born in Pawtucket on June 3,1930 to parents Matilda and Harold Springthorpe, both from England. Lois graduated from Newton High School in 1947 and went immediately on to nursing school at Newton Wellesley Hospital, graduating in September of 1951, gaining her license as a Registered Nurse in Rhode Island in May of 1952.
In her own words, Lois said, “The first happiest day of my life was the day I graduated from nursing school and wore my white uniform, white stockings, white shoes and white handkerchief in my pocket with my Newton Wellesley Hospital pin pinned to the handkerchief. The next happiest day of my life was August the twenty second, 1953. Earl and I were engaged on Christmas Eve 1952 and were married on August 22, 1953.” Lois and Earl were married for almost 62 years.
Lois and Earl raised a family of three daughters and one son: Deborah Kane (Saunderstown), Pamela Johnson (Scituate, MA), Barbara Bird (Jamestown) and John Neilsen, (South Kingstown). Lois and Earl’s home in East Greenwich was filled with a menagerie of beloved pets, music from clarinet, piano, French horn and drumming, practice of Masonic, Eastern Star and Rainbow Girls ritual, raucous cribbage games, and fun-loving parties for extended family and friends, complete with bagpipes and drums. Lois and Earl moved to Narragansett in 1977 and together loved their time at their seaside home.
Lois’ life represented the epitome of love and service to others. In her nursing career, Lois worked as a Registered Nurse at the Providence Lying-In Hospital, the Kent Hospital, Rhode Island Visiting Nurses and Rhode Island Home and Hospice Care. While working as a nurse, Lois further lived her motto of service in her leadership role as the Mother Advisor of East Greenwich Rainbow Girls Assembly #4 for four years.
During her time as a hospice nurse, Lois, always of very deep spiritual faith, felt a calling to the Episcopal ministry and began her journey to ordination. On February 4, 1989 she was ordained a Deacon in the Episcopal Church. Lois served as Deacon at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Charlestown, RI and then went on to serve as Deacon at St. Peter’s by-the Sea in Narragansett, RI from which she retired in 2000. Lois was an Oblate in the Order of Julian of Norwich.
Lois was a gifted knitter. Her children lovingly called her, “Madame Defarge” as she could knit so fast that sweaters literally jumped off her knitting needles in no time flat. She wrapped all of her children and grandchildren in gorgeous sweaters made of Icelandic wool. Her knitting led her to start a Diaconal Ministry to the children in the orphanages in Romania. Lois’ heart and spirit were so moved by the desperate conditions of the orphans that she recruited knitters from all over the United States to knit hats and blankets. Her dining room was piled from floor to ceiling with hand-made gifts that were sent to Romania to provide the simple comforts of loving warmth to the orphans. A few years after the start of her Romanian knitting project Lois had the chance to travel to Romania with her friend, Lelia Palmieri, whom she had met at St. Peter’s Church. Amazingly, Lelia was Romanian and fluent in the language, which enriched the experience for Lois as they were able to easily communicate with everyone they met along the way. Lois was filled with joy to meet the children who were wearing the knitted hats and wrapped up in the blankets she had sent.
Lois was an adventurer and loved everything about traveling. After her husband Earl retired, together they journeyed all over Europe and the United States, many of those trips with Earl’s sister and brother-in-law, Beverly and Harold Anderson. Lois kept detailed travel logs and albums and albums (and albums!) of photos.
Lois was also charmingly known as “The Queen Mum” by her family. She reveled in everything British and loved visiting her extended family who were still living in England. Her fun-loving children and grandchildren surprised her one year, while out on a tent camping trip in the middle of the woods, by putting on a coronation ceremony, complete with crown, robe and scepter. Lois was in her glory and enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of this unusual and thoroughly royal event.
In her final days, many of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were at last able to visit her in person. Family from afar continued to have virtual visits, which she immensely enjoyed, often convinced that she had actually visited them in person.
More than anything, Lois cherished her family and her family will forever love her. She leaves behind her daughters: Debbie Kane, of Saunderstown, Pamela Johnson of Scituate, Mass with her husband, Dr. Stephen Johnson; Barbara Bird, of Jamestown and Dennis Nixon; and her son, John Neilsen, of South Kingstown, with his wife, Phyllis; as well as her grandchildren: Meghan Swanson, and her husband, Karl; Geoffrey Johnson and his fiancée, Audrey Sublett; Stephanie Johnson; Jennifer Kubrynski and her husband, Greg; Johnathon Bird, and his wife, Hope; John Neilsen, Jr.; Nicholas Neilsen; and Lauren Neilsen. She also leaves behind five great-grandchildren: Skylar, Sasha, and Savannah Swanson, and Alexander and Zachary Kubrysnki. We all miss you – Mom, Meme, Gramma, Grandmama.
A Requiem Eucharist was celebrated at St. Peter’s by-the-Sea in Narragansett on June 5. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Peter’s by-the Sea or Beacon Hospice Care.
You can leave an online condolence at the funeral home HERE.