May 8, 1932 – October 16, 2021
Resident of Livermore, California
Rachael Claire Ensign Nelson, 89, died on October 16, 2021 at the home surrounded by her family.
A resident of Livermore, California for over 60 years, Claire was born and raised in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from Topeka High School, she attended the University of Kansas and Boston College majoring in English, but marriage, children, and a possible move to the Bay Area prompted her to get a degree in early childhood education from California State University, Hayward.
A friend noted: “Claire was a great woman involved in many causes across the Tri-Valley.” And another, “always cheerful, kind and caring, accomplishing so much without making a big deal – always an inspiration.” Indeed, Claire has often worked behind the scenes and was instrumental in founding TriValley Haven, Leahy Square Daycare and the Community Association for Preschool Education (CAPE). Many other organizations have benefited from her participation, including the Friends of the Livermore Library, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the Unitary Universalist Church of Livermore (UUCiL).
According to Carolyn Staehle, a longtime friend and advisor to Haven, “Claire was a mighty spirit in a small setting, a loving force in this community for decades. It was Claire who literally hosted women and their children in his house before we even have shelter.
âClaire believed in not only helping others, but also giving them the tools they would need to continue to grow and thrive long after leaving her life and care. A specialist in child development, Claire believed to inheritances – how to help the mothers would help the children, which would help the children of these unborn children. She knew that breaking the cycle of violence began with the smallest and most direct acts, like a hot meal, a hot cookie, a place in a house when the house had been lost.
“It’s amazing how many lives Claire’s vision has touched [since the Haven’s inception]. For anyone who has thought they can’t tell the difference, that the world’s problems are too big, too complicated, or too far away for them to touch, Claire Nelson has proven time and time again that we can tell. difference. One person, one family, one community at a time. ”
She was a determined gardener, worm grower, and avid reader, so losing her sight to macular degeneration was devastating, but not overwhelming, as audiobooks became a passion in her final months. Cookbooks were always a particular favorite and she was a brilliant cook. She adapted many recipes to streamline their preparation and make them more affordable and was in the process of writing her own low cost meal cookbook at the time of her death.
Claire has brought an equal amount of energy and passion to family, friends and strangers with scholarships, home cooked meals, letter writing campaigns and political activism across the country. Although Claire’s flame has gone out, the light she shone on everyone she has touched continues.
Her parents, Virgil and Blanche Ensign, predeceased her.
She is survived by her husband of 69 years, Harry L. Nelson of the house; three sons Craig (Nancy) of Livermore, Bron (Desiree) of Saratoga, Scott (Sabrina) of Castro Valley; daughter Sandy (David) of Manhattan, Kansas; his brother Mike Ensign (Jeanne) of Aptos; nine grandchildren; three great-grandchildren and many other friends and relatives.
A celebration of life is planned for spring 2022.
Commemorative contributions to Tri-Valley Haven are encouraged.
View Claire Nelson’s online memorial
Published by East Bay Times on January 6, 2022.