OBITUARY

Lila Doyn Dixon Nelson

July 6, 1924September 30, 2020

Lila Doyn Dixon Nelson

July 6, 1924 – September 30, 2020

Lila Doyn Dixon Nelson passed away peacefully at the age of 96, at her bayside home in Newport Beach, California, surrounded by her loving family.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, to William Bryan Dixon, M.D., and Flavia Hickman Dixon, Lila grew up in the state’s iconic small towns. Her father was a highly respected physician and the family enjoyed a position of some prominence. “The doctor’s daughter”, Lila was blessed with a full and happy childhood, despite the hardships brought on by the Great Depression. She loved to ice skate in the winter and vacation at Dixon Beach on Lake Okoboji in the summer. Following graduation from What Cheer High School in 1942, Lila moved with her family to Southern California, but remained close to her Midwest roots and beloved Iowa relatives throughout her life.

During World War II, her father was commissioned as Captain in the U.S. Army and stationed at the Veteran’s Administration in Los Angeles. Lila found L.A. to be an exciting change from rural Iowa, especially when dancing to famous Big Bands, like Glenn Miller and His Orchestra, at the Cocoanut Grove and Hollywood Palladium and skating year-round at the magnificent, outdoor Tropical Ice Gardens (the “Sonja Henie Ice Rink”) in Westwood Village. Enthralled with the beautiful, new Westwood campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), she enrolled as an undergraduate and quickly became a die-hard Bruin fan. Lila was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, where she developed life-long friendships with her sorority sisters, and graduated in 1947 with a degree in psychology.

In one of her psychology classes, Lila met her future husband and love of her life, Eric Loren Nelson, a handsome, young Naval officer who had returned to UCLA following the end of the war. They were married at the Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church on February 6, 1948, and blessed with 68 years of marriage and three daughters. After residing in the Hollywood Hills and then Brentwood, Lila and Eric moved their family to then-rural Orange County in 1965, building their new home on a former Valencia orange grove in Tustin, where they lived for 20 years before moving to Newport Beach.

Lila quickly became active in many of the area’s social and charitable activities and organizations, including the Assistance League of Santa Ana and the PEO Sisterhood, Tustin Chapter. However, she was dismayed to find a lack of performing arts, having been involved in music (piano and flute), dance (ballet and tap), and theatre from a young age. She became an early supporter of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Pacific Chorale. She and Eric supported the founding of the Orange County Performing Arts Center as Center Diplomats and Major Donors, held season tickets to the center’s opera, symphony, Broadway, “Pops”, and dance series for over 30 years, and were charter members of the Center Club Orange County. Lila also was a member of Center Stars and the Opera Pacific Guild Alliance.

Throughout her marriage to Eric, a medical school professor at UCLA, research scientist and pharmaceutical industry executive (Allergan Pharmaceuticals and Nelson Research & Development Co.), Lila enthusiastically supported Eric’s passion for advancing biomedical knowledge and therapeutics. Together, they were major donors to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), the UCI School of Medicine, and the UCI Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. In 1988, they established the Eric L. and Lila D. Nelson Endowed Chair in Neuropharmacology and gifted the Eric L. Nelson and Lila D. Nelson Student Lecture Hall to the medical school. Lila was a charter member of the medical school’s Research Associates and, in 1997, was recognized by the UCI Brain Imaging Center as a Brain Imaging Outstanding Volunteer. Also in 1997, Lila and Eric were officially commended by the California Legislature for “exemplary display of responsible and dedicated service to their community and state and for their illustrious record of personal and civic achievements.”

In her own right, Lila was an avid and accomplished genealogist, spending over 40 years documenting her extensive family tree, in some cases back to the 1500’s. Long before Ancestry.com, she traveled throughout the United States and Europe to visit cemeteries and unearth dusty public and church records. She traced her paternal great-grandparents to Wiltshire, England, and delighted in connecting with her new-found English cousins. She researched generations of her maternal, American ancestors, including early settlers in New England, Pennsylvania and Virginia and 16 Patriots in the Revolutionary War. She was a proud member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR Katuktu Chapter, Tustin), and the beautiful DAR library in Washington, D.C., was one of her favorite research haunts.

Lila loved entertaining and parties, celebrating every holiday and occasion, and attending fundraising events and galas. She faithfully followed Bruin basketball and football and held UCLA season football tickets for over 70 years. She was well-known for her extensive collection of stuffed bears and antique dolls, particularly Shirley Temple dolls. She loved to travel and, together with her husband, toured or cruised much of the world, often with friends.

Most of all, Lila treasured her family and the time spent with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, whether at her home in Newport Beach, vacation homes on the Balboa Peninsula, Big Bear Lake and in Palm Springs, or on family trips to favorite destinations, such as Hawaii. A constant, supportive and loving presence in the lives of all her family members, “MoMo”, as she was affectionately known to her grandsons, was at the center of so many fun and special memories and will be dearly missed.

Lila is survived by her daughters, Diana Nelson Krause, Ph.D., Lori Nelson Berg, and Devon Nelson Bloom (Jeffrey); grandsons Loren Krause (Fatimah Guienze), Jon Berg, Peter Berg (Anne Bowler), James Bloom, and Michael Bloom; and great-grandchildren Khalisah Krause and Kim W. Krause. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband Eric L. Nelson, Ph.D. (2016), sons-in-law Kim L. Krause (1999) and Raymond E. Berg, M.D. (2020), and sister Jocelyn Wickersheim (2007).

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a private funeral service was held for Lila on October 4, 2020, at Pacific View Memorial Park, Corona del Mar, California.

Donations in memory of Lila may be made to: UCI Gavin Herbert Eye Institute (please make checks payable to “UCI Foundation”, indicate on the memo line “3291 – MD Research – Dr. S. Lu”, and mail to Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, c/o Amber Harness, 850 Health Sciences Road, Irvine, CA 92697); or, Daughters of the American Revolution (please make checks payable to “Katuktu Chapter NSDAR” and mail to Tammis Berkheimer, Treasurer, 2362 Sable Tree Circle, Tustin, CA 92780).

Services

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Lila Doyn Dixon Nelson

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