Maureen Louise (Motl) Nielson was born in 1950 in Omaha, Nebraska, the eldest daughter of eight siblings. Her father was a small town football hero football turned pharmacist, a WWII veteran, and her mother was a nurse. She held a BA in Child Psychology from UNO and worked with autistic children at a time when state mental institutions closed and children with special needs were integrated into regular classrooms. She valued seeing every child as a “somebody” deserving of love. Compassion and humanitarianism were important to her, and she sought a deep spiritual meaning in life. In the late 1980s she managed an independent bookstore but the arrival of big chain bookstores forced her to look for work elsewhere. She moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa in 1990 with her daughter and worked as a retail manager until a workplace injury left her permanently disabled. In 1995, she bought a house in Ringsted and spent her early retirement traveling to the lakes and perfecting her skills in nature photography. She loved horses, books, Star Trek, Pavarotti, The Moody Blues, and gardening. Her secret talent was being able to pick up any musical instrument and figure out how to play it within minutes. As she said, “The music was already in there, all I did was just let it out.” She was a singer-songwriter and artist but never felt confident in her abilities; instead she shared her gifts with the many children she cared for over the years. When her health began to fail and she could no longer garden, she let it grow wild with daisies. As a last gift to Mother Nature, she let the saplings rise to the sky and shelter in their branches a thousand little lives, each one important and bright with hope as when the Earth was new.
She is survived by her daughter Johanna, and two cats. Memorial donations can be made in her name to the Emmet County Animal Shelter.