Delores Joyce Nelson died Feb. 4 surrounded by family. She was born on Feb. 4, 1935, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Poplar, Montana, to Harry and Tillie Culbertson. In 1943, the family moved to Milton, Washington. In the summer of 1944, they moved to Vanport, where Harry and Tillie worked in the Swan Island shipyards. They resided in Vanport until the flood of 1948, when the family relocated to Portland.

Mrs. Nelson graduated from Lincoln High School in 1954. She had been a majorette with the band and participated in the Portland Rose Festival Parade. She attended Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas, and graduated from its business program in 1955. Her first job was in Belcourt, North Dakota, as a secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She also worked at Fort Belknap and Billings in Montana for the BIA. While in Denver in 1956, she met Buzz Nelson, and they married in 1957. She said, “That’s where I met Mr. Right.”

The couple moved to Portland in 1959. Mrs. Nelson continued her employment with the BIA. She was an original founding member of the Portland American Indian Center (PAIC), and remembered its sewing club, dances, and “picnics galore in the summer.” She was also a member of the PAIC Bowling Club. Her team consisted of sister Jo, brother Harold, and father Harry. Mrs. Nelson bowled on several Indian teams that also included her husband, sisters Karen and Gloria, and daughter Val.

In 1969, Mrs. and Mr. Nelson attended meetings that led to the creation of the Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA). During 1972, she worked as secretary in NARA’s first office. She also filled in as a temp-secretary at the Urban Indian Council. She continued her employment at NARA until the passing of her father Harry in 1979.

In 1982, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson began holding community meetings in their home that led to the creation of the Concerned Indian Community. Created from CIC meetings was the American Indian Association of Portland (AIAP). In 2002, Mrs. Nelson co-founded the Portland American Indian Elders. During the 1980s until the mid-90s, she served on the NARA and AIAP Boards. She also served on the UIC Board as NARA’s representative during her employment with NARA.

Mrs. Nelson enjoyed people and gave to her community. In earlier years, she visited Native prisoners in the Oregon State Penitentiary and started an Easter egg hunt in her front yard for her children, nieces and nephews. As the years passed, the event grew to more than 200 people and had to be moved to the neighborhood park. Her home was open to all, where she would offer a meal. At times, the couple provided a temporary home to those who needed one. She enjoyed playing games like bingo, Yahtzee, 31, 6-5-4, and poker, with a big part of the fun being the visiting and laughter. She enjoyed shopping, as well as attending tribal elder gatherings.

The Nelsons were honored by Low Income Housing for Native Americans of Portland with the naming of Nelson Court Apartments in North Portland. In 2006, she received the Spirit of Portland award. When the couple received the Heart of the Community Award in 2013, Mrs. Nelson said, “If everybody helped everybody, it would be a much better world.” She put others before herself and gave everything she had, say loved ones. “If you were her friend, she freely gave you her loyalty, good humor, and hospitality that was hard to match.”

Mrs. Nelson was preceded in death by her parents; son John Nelson; daughters Joanne (Poker) Nelson, Jeanine (Angie) Nelson, and grandson Chase Cuny; brothers Pierre Culbertson, Benjamin Culbertson, Joe Culbertson, and David Culbertson.

She is survived by her husband of 63 years, daughter Valerie Nelson, son Sam (Huey) Nelson, and 34 grandchildren (great and great-great), including grandson John Y. Nelson whom Joyce raised as her own child, brother Harold Culbertson, sisters Jo Zollinger, Karen Harvey, and Gloria Culbertson, numerous nieces and nephews and close friends.