Welcome to the memorial page for

Donna J. (Bates) Nelson

October 20, 1928 ~ July 19, 2017 (age 88)

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July 21, 2017

3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Vandemore Funeral Home
580 East Ogden Ave
Geneseo, IL 61254

Funeral Service
July 22, 2017

10:30 AM
First United Methodist Church
302 N State St
Geneseo, il 61254


Donna J. Nelson


Donna Jean (Bates) Nelson, Geneseo, was called home to the loving arms of her Lord on July 19th, 2017 at the age of 88. Funeral services will be held Saturday, July 22nd at First United Methodist Church at 10:30 a.m. Reverend Dr. Chris Ritter will officiate. Burial will follow at Oakwood Cemetery in Geneseo. Visitation will be Friday, July 21st at Vandemore Funeral Home & Crematory, Geneseo from 3:00-7:00 p.m. Memorials may be left to First United Methodist Church, Hammond Henry Hospital, or Geneseo Athletics.

Donna was born on October 20th, 1928 and was raised in rural Kewanee, the daughter of Carl and Verla (Werkheiser) Bates.  Donna, the sister of three brothers and four sisters was a 4-H member, pitched softball and was a member of church and neighborhood groups and attended church camps where she met many friends.  

Donna graduated from Wethersfield High School.  She met the love of her life, John M. Nelson, through her sister Alice’s husband.  John and Donna were married on February 28th, 1948.  John passed away on June 26th, 2006. Together they farmed north of Geneseo and raised five children.  Donna, her siblings and their spouses remained close throughout their adult lives.  They enjoyed time together playing cards, traveling and gathering twice annually for large family reunions.  As they all retired, they met once a month to play cards and enjoy time with each other.

Donna was active in the Salem Society of Pink Prairie in Phoenix Township and the United Methodist Women of First Methodist Church, Geneseo.  She worked alongside her husband on the farm, as well as preparing many midday meals for the men who came to work for them.  The workers were always expected to sit around the large family table and enjoyed her delicious homemade pies and cookies.  Her most famously requested pie was lemon meringue.  Donna and John were avid Geneseo sports fans, attending most of the out of town events.  They were the number one fans of their eleven grandchildren.  They would spend the cold winter days putting together large jigsaw puzzles. Donna will be remembered by her grandchildren and great grandchildren for her many hours spent with them, playing table games (never “letting” them win), putting puzzles together, baking them special cookies, and teaching them unconditional love.

Donna and John were afforded the pleasures of traveling to Europe, Canada, Alaska and the Panama Canal.  A major highlight for them was being able to attend the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA when the Illini football team played in 1984.  There were numerous trips across the country to reunite with John’s Army buddies, who they remained close in contact with over the years.

The family expresses deep appreciation to the wonderful and loving staff at Geneseo Liberty Village and Hillcrest Home who assisted in making her final two and half years pleasant and comfortable.

Donna is survived by her five children, Michael, Rock Island, David (Michele), Geneseo, Steven (Diana), Springfield, IL, Susan (Tom) Heiden and Linda (Jim) Claeys, both of Geneseo.  Vivette Catipon, Livermore, CA, is a very special daughter whom Donna and John took in as an exchange student.

Her eleven grandchildren and spouses are: Christine (Joe) Brandlin, Huntley, IL, Richard (Theresa) VanOpdorp, Mt Prospect, IL, Abby Mooney, Geneseo, Jon VanOpdorp (fiancé Kate Miller),Wales, WI, Nicki (Ted) Stoops, Bloomington, IL, Angela (Roderick) Rippen, Raleigh, NC, Kelsey (Brandon) Cherry, Geneseo, Jackeline (Brian) Nelson-Rogers, Springfield, IL, Tyler Claeys (special friend Ariel Stann) Chicago, IL, John David (Ashley) Nelson, Junction City, KS and Emma Claeys, Geneseo.  Her step grandson is Justin (Heather) Heiden, Pine Island, MN.

Nineteen great grandchildren are Brooke and Hailey Brandlin, Blayke, Grant and Cole VanOpdorp, Mick, Madelyn and Colten Mooney, Lily, Luke and Charlotte Stoops, Garrett, Brenden and Maddoux Mather, Grace Schilling, Charlee and Lane Cherry and Cataleya-Marie Rogers.  Two step great grandchildren are Brooke Sinning and Jarrett Heiden.

Donna is also survived by her brother, Earl Bates and sister Phyllis (Alvin) Hepner, both of Kewanee and numerous nieces and nephews.

Donna was preceded in death by her parents, husband, two brothers, and three sisters.

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