Donna Jean (Bates) Nelson, 88, of Geneseo, was called home to the loving arms of her Lord on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Funeral services were at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 22 at First United Methodist Church, in Geneseo. The Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter officiated. Burial followed at Oakwood Cemetery, in Geneseo. A visitation was from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, July 21 at Vandemore Funeral Home & Crematory, in Geneseo. Memorials may be left to First United Methodist Church, Hammond-Henry Hospital or Geneseo athletics.

Donna Jean (Bates) Nelson, 88, of Geneseo, was called home to the loving arms of her Lord on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. Funeral services were at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 22 at First United Methodist Church, in Geneseo. The Rev. Dr. Chris Ritter officiated. Burial followed at Oakwood Cemetery, in Geneseo. A visitation was from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, July 21 at Vandemore Funeral Home & Crematory, in Geneseo. Memorials may be left to First United Methodist Church, Hammond-Henry Hospital or Geneseo athletics.

Donna was born Oct. 20, 1928, the daughter of Carl and Verla (Werkheiser) Bates. She was raised in rural Kewanee. 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 Feb. 28, 1948. John died June 26, 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 continue playing cards and enjoying time with each other.

Donna was active in the Salem Society of Pink Prairie, in Phoenix Township and the United Methodist Women of First United Methodist Church, in 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 No. 1 fans of their 11 grandchildren. They would spend the cold winter shut-in 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, Calif., when the Illini football team played in 1984. There were numerous trips across the country to reunite with John’s Army buddies whom they remained close in contact with over the years.

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

Donna is survived by her five children, including her three sons, Michael, of Rock Island; David (Michele), of Geneseo; and Steven (Diana), of Springfield; and two daughters, Susan (Tom) Heiden and Linda (Jim) Claeys, both of Geneseo; a very special daughter, Vivette Catipon, of Livermore, Calif., whom Donna and John took in as an exchange student; 11 grandchildren and spouses: Christine (Joe) Brandlin, of Huntley; Richard (Theresa) Van Opdorp, of Mt. Prospect; Abby Mooney, of Geneseo; Jon Van Opdorp (fiancée Kate Miller), of Wales, Wis.; Nicki (Ted) Stoops, of Bloomington; Angela (Roderick) Rippen, of Raleigh, N.C.; Kelsey (Brandon) Cherry, of Geneseo; Jackeline (Brian) Nelson-Rogers, of Springfield; Tyler Claeys (special friend Ariel Stann), of Chicago; John David (Ashley) Nelson, of Junction City, Kan.; and Emma Claeys, of Geneseo; a step-grandson, Justin (Heather), Heiden, of Pine Island, Minn.; 19 great-grandchildren, Brooke and Hailey Brandlin; Blayke, Grant and Cole Van Opdorp; 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, Brooke Sinning and Jarrett Heiden; one brother, Earl Bates, of Kewanee; one sister, Phyllis (Alvin) Hepner, of Kewanee; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, two brothers and three sisters.