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1951 Nelva 2024

Nelva Jane Petersen

July 17, 1951 — March 3, 2024


     “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”     ― Hunter S. Thompson

  Nelva came across this quote and said, “This is the way I want to be known!”

  Nelva Jane Petersen, the daughter of John and Jeanette (Vonk) Feekes, was born on July 17, 1951, in Sioux Center, IA. She grew up on the farm outside Carmel, IA where she attended grade school, peddling uphill both ways on her bike to get there.  She attended and graduated from High School in Sioux Center, IA in 1969.

     Nelva married Larry Kats on November 4, 1970 and to this union three children were born: Shad, Misti and Molly. Nelva had a great mind for business.  She owned and operated the Economy Shop in Rock Valley, IA, first in their home for 12 years and then moved to a store downtown. Retail was in her blood even to her last days, she could sell anything that she believed in but only if you needed it.

     On September 9, 2000, Nelva married Thomas Petersen, at Pioneer Village in Worthington, MN. Prior to her marriage, she owned and operated the Now ’n Then Store in Sibley, IA and moved it to their farm by Bigelow, MN, after their marriage.

     Nelva gave her life to ministry. She became a Certified Lay Speaker in the late 1990’s after enduring 4 brain surgeries beginning in 1993.  She would travel to churches and organizations to share her testimony of faith and God’s miracle through her.

     Nelva and Tom co-pastored at Church of the Brethren by Worthington, MN from 2004-2006; she attended Clinical Pastor Education, a one-year program in the hospital in 2005, in Sioux Falls. She served as a Hospice Chaplain in Nobles County, MN 2005 – 2006. The couple then moved to Iowa and she helped Tom with his ministry. Nelva pastored Spring Grove UMC in Burlington, IA from 2012 – 2013. She is a 2016 graduate of Morningside College School for Lay Ministry as a Certified Lay Servant.

     End of life ministry was her passion. She loved being a Hospice volunteer and received the “Volunteer of The Year” award from Storm Lake Unity Point Hospice, going to DesMoines to be honored.

     Nelva enjoyed going to and having garage sales, fixing puzzles, and quilting.  She had a gift for gab. . . Nelva never met anyone she couldn’t have a conversation with. She was especially proud to be a part of her River’s Edge Church family. She was a treasured presence across Iowa in the churches where Tom served as pastor.

    Most of all she enjoyed spending time with her grandkids. Nelva and Tom held Grandma and Grandpa camp for many years with expeditions to West Bend for the Groto; Omaha to Lauritzen Gardens; Fort Madison, IA to the historic fort and a reenactment of firing a cannon, then to the Fort Diner where they shared a 2 lb. Wallyburger.  They journeyed to Hannibal, MO to explore the hometown of Mark Twain. Another time crossed the Mississippi river on a ferry going to Springfield, IL to see the Abraham Lincoln home, museum, and tomb.  At Ft Snelling in Minneapolis she wouldn’t be shown up by her grandkids and learned to walk on stilts. Nelva was there for them when they were in college in Iowa City, Cedar Falls, and Ames, making frequent visits and taking them out for lunch or helping them move.  She was especially excited to soon become a great-grandma.

   Nelva passed away on Sunday, March 3, 2024, surrounded by her loving family, at the Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD at the age of 72. She is preceded in death by her parents and her brother, Mike Feekes.

      Left to cherish her memory are her husband, Thomas of Spencer; her children: Shad Kats of Hull, IA and his children: Kerrigan, Jerad and Braeden, Misti Fykstra and her husband, Jason of Boyden, IA and their children: Dustin and Kyra, and Molly Kats of Sioux City, IA and her children: Alisha and Grace; her brothers: Harlen (Cheryl) Feekes of CA, Doug (Melinda) Feekes of Arizona and Verlyn Feekes of Missouri; her sisters: Cheri (Ryan) Helfenstein of AZ, Tami (Morris) Brizinski of AZ and Canada; numerous aunts and uncles; other relatives and friends.

One of Nelva's requests was that if you are attending the funeral please wear bright colors!

​In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to: Rivers Edge Methodist Church, First Christian Church or Upper Des Moines.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Nelva Jane Petersen, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Tuesday, March 12, 2024

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

River's Edge Methodist Church

701 E 18th St, Spencer, IA 51301

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Memorial Service

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

River's Edge Methodist Church

701 E 18th St, Spencer, IA 51301

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


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