For those who are unable to attend, we will be live streaming Mrs. Nelson’s service on Facebook Live:

Joanna J. (Heffington) Nelson

August 13, 1948May 24, 2020
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Joanna J. Heffington Nelson of Austin passed away May 24, 2020; born August 13, 1948 in Houston, Texas to James M. and Agnes B. Heffington. She was a graduate of Bellaire High School in Houston and earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from Baylor University in 1970.

Joanna is survived by her loving husband of forty years, Jim Nelson; her sister, Nelwyn Pearl Foley; three children, James W. Nelson and his wife Jenny, Julia N. Drude and her husband Ben, and Caroline Nelson; six grandchildren, Lawson Nelson, Campbell Nelson, and Vada Nelson, Virginia Drude, Hazel Drude, and Henry Drude, and three nieces and nephews, whom she loved dearly. She is also survived by many cousins of the Boone, Heffington, and McClanahan families. She was predeceased by her parents and two sisters, Lanette Jane Dye and Claudette Heffington.

Immediately after her graduation from Baylor, she taught middle school in Brooklyn for two years and organized the very first musical (of several following) in that school and received highest accolades from the school and from the New York City school district. Following this, she was the head assistant to the Chief Curator of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. She then returned to Texas, where she worked as a court transcriber in the days before there was computer access in this field. She moved to Austin and continued this job transcribing for three District Courts in Travis County. This was followed by working as a successful real estate agent, where she completed negotiations on her last contract from the Labor Room just hours before the birth of her third child.

This was followed by her lovingly serving as the Music Director at Highland Park Baptist Preschool for almost twenty years. Her time there resulted in the development of the love and understanding of music by young children, many of whom have kept contact with her throughout the years. She also served as President of the Texas State Officials Ladies Club. For over twenty years, she was a member of Hyde Park Baptist Church, where as the Ninth Grade Sunday School Director, she shaped the lives of countless high school students. At the time of her death, she was a member of First Church Austin. There was never a kinder or more encouraging spirit to all those around her, and lived the words of the prophet Micah set out in Micah 6:8.

For those wishing to make a memorial contribution, please do so in memory of Joanna H. Nelson to the Friend of Music Endowed Scholarship Fund, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97050, Waco, Texas 76798-7050, or to a charity of your choice.

Dr. Bill Blackburn will officiate a small private service at Weed-Corley-Fish at 3125 North Lamar at 11:00 am on Friday, May 29th. During this time of the pandemic, attendance is quite limited; however, we will be live streaming the service on Facebook Live via the funeral home website:

Log into Facebook, search Weed-Corley-Fish, click on Joanna Nelson (near the top of the page) and then click on "watch" or you can type the following url in your browser: https://www.facebook.com/WCFFunerals

A private burial will follow the service at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.


  • James Nelson, Active Pallbearer
  • Ben Drude, Active Pallbearer
  • Mitchell Dye, Active Pallbearer
  • Amy Nelson, Active Pallbearer
  • Laura Mossman, Active Pallbearer
  • Lanae Claunch, Active Pallbearer
  • Lawson Nelson, Honorary Pallbearer
  • Henry Drude, Honorary Pallbearer


Joanna J. (Heffington) Nelson

have a memory or condolence to add?

Camille Miller

May 24, 2021

Bill and I send our prayers for the whole family on this anniversary of your loss.
Camille Miller

Amy Brees

November 20, 2020

I was so shocked to see this on Facebook. We had no idea. I feel horrible. She was such a wonderful person. She played piano at HPB Pre-School when Audrey was there. Please give my love to James and to Jim.

Greg Edwards

June 2, 2020

Prayers for peace and grace for you and your family, Jim.
Bear Hugs from Greg and Angie Edwards

Myra Bradley

June 2, 2020

Jim, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I only met Joanna once. Ironically, it was the night the ACC Board of Trustees scheduled your official retirement ceremony and plaque presentation. Joanna arrived. Indicating Joanna, you whispered, "What is she doing here?" Judy Green had called Joanna without telling you. Joanna had not told you either. She just quietly came to support you.

Before you noticed her across the room, Joanna and I discussed my comments about your time in the Navy when I roasted you at your retirement bash. Joanna told me that you "cut quite the figure" in your dress uniform back in the day. Her eyes sparkled as she said it. I think that's the way she saw you when she looked at you from then on.

Gabriel Arellano

June 2, 2020

I'm really sorry to hear about the passing of your wife, Joanna. I met her in person only once, and she was as lovely and witty a person as you described all the times you spoke of her.

Marguerite Swilling

June 2, 2020

Dear Jim,

My love and sympathy to you and your beautiful family. You are in my thoughts and prayers. May the Lord send the comfort only He can give.

Marguerite Swilling

Dee Dee Dwyer

May 31, 2020

Jim, I am so sorry for the loss of your precious wife. Many prayers for you and your family...
Dee Dee Dwyer

Shirley James

May 30, 2020

Dear Jim, What a shock it was to see Joanna's obit in the paper. My heart goes out to you and your beautiful family at this sad time. Joanna was such a joyful person and always smiling, and I remember that she was deliciously impish! Unfortunately, I did not know of all of Joanna's accomplishments until I read her beautiful obit. I just knew she was one heck of a gal! With loving thoughts and my deepest sympathy.
Shirley James


May 29, 2020

Joanna: Texas' version of Maria from “The Sound of Music.” Churchy, not preachy, did she waltz to service, arriving late? Did her dress have a tear—were there curlers in her hair?

That smile and demeanor! The mischievous way she roped one in! Piano playing and singing. Oh, those stories. She lassoed with stories.

I'd like to say a word in her behalf… Joanna made me laugh. When with Joanna I often was confused, out of focus and bemused. She was as unpredictable as the weather. Flighty as a feather? She was a darling and a lamb.

I married a Texan in California and moved to Austin. Randy had Texas family but none in Austin. I was lonely. Although James and my Kelly were in the same preschool I didn’t know that there was a link. Joanna one day at school said, “I know who you are…We have almost the same name…Your mother-in-law helped me get ready for prom…She fixed my hair and makeup and gave me a necklace to wear…I know Randy from Second Baptist Church but I’m older than he is…We have Baylor connections…”

That barrage of words, accompanied by smiles and loving warmth, was an emotional blanket that she wrapped around me.

Julia and my daughter Cheryl have known each forever. Caroline was the cute, little sister. From WAYA through Austin High and beyond, our families are still intertwined.

When Randy died, Joanna and close friend Julie Chiles, whirlwinding good intentions and baked goods, showed up: tables and chairs, familiar foods (pigs-in-a-blanket, anyone?) and fellowship descended.

So how do we tell her goodbye?
There are many things we’d like her to understand.
But we couldn’t make her stay and listen to all we’d say.
We can’t keep a wave upon the sand.
Oh, Joanna wasn’t an unsolvable problem.
She was, for a while, a moonbeam in our hand.

Fellowship must wait. Until then, memories of Joanna will tumble and toss, as will tears and smiles.

I send condolences to the Nelsons from the Hankamers.

Joanne Hankamer

Allen Holt

May 29, 2020

Dear Jim, James and family.....

We were so sorry to hear about Joanna's passing. What a truly wonderful and special person. We hope you all find peace and comfort in this difficult time.

Gail and Allen Holt