Nelly Lind – In Memoriam
In 1996, the First Lady of the United States , Hillary Rodham Clinton, wrote a book entitled “It Takes A Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us”. The title is based on an African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. In the book, she writes about the impact and importance that individuals and groups outside a child’s immediate family have on our youth. The book was received with much controversy and many wrote in disagreement. I, however, happen to agree with Ms. Clinton, for there are many things I’ve learned from people I’ve met within my community, my “village” - Nelly Lind being one of them.
I don’t recall exactly when I first met Nelly, but my clearest recollection is sitting in her Davisville Avenue kitchen, making her famous marshmallow salad – I think I was about 16 years old. My mother and I had recently joined St. Peter’s Cantate Domino choir and Nelly needed help preparing one of the many dinners she organized for the choir. Her kitchen was filled with bowls, pots, chopping boards and ingredients. The two of us sat across from each other, slicing fruit into an enormous bowl placed on the floor. We chatted about the use of green grapes versus purple ones and why sliced almonds were better than slivered for the salad.
I came to help Nelly in many of her future adventures – for they were adventures, not just church or community events. Nelly was for a long while, the heart and sole of St. Peter’s church and choir, organizing field trips, guest choirs, special occasions and dinners. She organized fund raising events for the church through “tulu õhtud” where she managed to have just about ever “who’s who” in the Estonian community help her and agree to perform. There were guest singers, poets, folk dancers and the list goes on and on. In her fund raising efforts, she also turned to government agencies to acquire grants. Did you know that it was Nelly who funded the dishwashing machine in St. Peter’s church hall? And that it was she who raised the funds for the stage curtains among other items?
For many years Nelly was the choir elder for Cantate Domino. It was a very active group at the time through much of her efforts organizing concerts and many field trip visits to other churches in Canada and the US . I fondly remember her excitement and glee as she proposed uniform dresses for the women. She chose the pattern and material and quickly we all began to sew. Our first uniforms were a light blue slim line dress followed a few years later with dark blue dresses and white collars.
Organization, she always told me, was the key to success – and organized she was. At the end of every event, she took the time to always thank and pass out flowers to those who had assisted her event.
I must also recall the many church outings that were held at her Bradford farm. Surrounded by a lovely pond and gardens, the outdoor church service followed by lunch was an annual event that many looked forward to. Bright yellow school buses brought those who didn’t have cars – all arranged by Nelly.
Do you remember the many jars of pickled beets, pumpkin and pickles she donated for fund raising? The cases of homemade goodies her husband Tõnis carried to the church basement. What about the hundreds, dare I say thousands, of poems she took the time to write for everyone for just about every occasion? She remember special occasions, presented flowers, organized birthdays, wedding showers (Jaan Nuga), too many events to even recall.
Having been ill these last few months, she told me she hoped to live to attend the Walnut passenger 65th anniversary in November. Attending the event had been her final wish – she wanted all of her family to know about their history and how it was that they had come to live in Canada . It was at the event, surrounded by many generations of her family, that she presented her final poem, thoughts and recollections. A lovely way to say goodbye it turns out.
It seems to be a time now when recognition and awards seem to hold great importance to our society. However, Nelly and many others of her generation – the pioneers of our community and church - worked diligently for the mere betterment of our congregation. There were no awards, nor did anyone expect one. While working full time, this generation dedicated themselves whole heartedly to making the church and the Estonian society an active community. They were determined and dedicated working not for recognition, but out of kindness and love.
Sadly, with Nelly’s passing, another of our community’s active generation has left us. She will sorely be missed, but she has left behind for us a treasure trove of memories and love. She was an example not only for her family, but for those of us that were privileged to have been a part of living in her “village”.
As author Jesse Owens states, “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication self-discipline, and effort.” Nelly Lind was just such a person. She taught me much, and for that I will be ever grateful. She has left a legacy of love for others to follow. Rest in peace dear Nelly, your work here is now done.