A joyous reunion was held on the other side of the veil when our mother and grandmother, Nina, peacefully crossed over Sept. 6, 2021, surrounded by loved ones. Although the last years of her life Nina struggled with Alzheimer’s and then cancer, during this difficult season of her final journey home, she did not let it diminish her spirit, her faith, or her fun laugh and positive outlook on life! She kept her sense of humor to the end!
Nina was always expressing her excitement about passing on to the next stage of her life… as she affectionately referred to it as “the ultimate trip.” For years Nina was always heard saying things such as “Oh, I have had such a wonderful life!” and “Every righteous desire of my heart has been granted me” and “I can’t possibly think of anything else that I could have ever wanted!”
Born in Orem, Utah, during the Great Depression, Nina was the youngest of seven children born to Arthur V. Watkins and Andrea Rich Watkins. (Her older sister only lived a few short hours, but Nina always remembered her and counted her in with her siblings.) At the age of 15, Nina moved from Orem to Arlington, Virginia, when her father was elected as U.S. Senator for Utah. Nina was very involved in high school and had many exciting adventures with her best friend, Shirley Crowther (Hardman). Nina was selected as Washington Lee High School Salutatorian from her large graduating class of 400 students. Nina then enrolled at George Washington University and later transferred to BYU where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art and a minor in French.
During her college time at GWU, Nina met her true love (William) Martin Palmer who was a medical student, while on a blind date. When Nina transferred to BYU she and Martin had a long distance dating relationship for two years, and upon Nina’s graduation they were sealed for time and eternity in the Salt Lake Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nina worked full time while Martin finished up his fourth year of medical school at the University of Maryland Medical School; they then applied to do his pediatric cardiology residency in the Bay Area and off they moved across the country from the East Coast to sunny Northern California for a new adventure!
Nina, Martin and their four children loved living in the Bay Area and thoroughly enjoyed many happy years in beautiful Northern California with life-long friendships with the Billeters, Christensens, Wickels and Stephens’. Nina loved going to the ocean (especially in the winter to enjoy the crashing waves) and enjoyed many trips with Martin to her special vacation spot, Carmel. Every year family vacation times were spent going down to San Diego to spend time with Martin’s sister and family “The Squire Gang” or driving to Utah to spend time with Nina’s siblings and their children, attending the famous “Corry Reunion” camping at Navajo Lake in Southern Utah or visiting other relatives. Nina instilled in her children the importance of extended family and having meaningful relationships with cousins. (For which we are so very grateful!).
Nina’s most cherished place was the Palmer Cabin and property down in Hatch, Utah, where she could enjoy listening to the rushing of the Mammoth Creek that ran through the property, smelling the crisp scent of the pine trees, watching the hummingbirds, and relaxing, sitting on the deck and sharing family time! She looked forward every year to the many trips to the cabin throughout the summer! It truly was a slice of heaven on earth for Nina!
In 1973 Nina and Martin decided to start another adventure when Martin left his private medical pediatric practice and accepted the position as the Medical Director at Primary Children’s Medical Center. So they left sunny California and moved their family to Salt Lake City, Utah, to be near cousins and grandparents and learn to ski and enjoy the snow.
Nina was very involved over the years with many different organizations. Nina worked to get community groups organized and was involved as an original member of the Utah Federation for Drug Free Youth, was a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use, and the Governor’s Council on Volunteerism. Nina started the Utah Association of Women in the late 1970s in an informal caucus in her living room. Nina worked hard to get her women’s organization granted consultative status by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and for many years she was heavily involved with traveling the world to participate in UN meetings and conferences. In 2000, she was also elected to the board of directors of the World Movement of Mothers and for years had the opportunity to go to Paris to attend their annual board meetings.
Nina was extremely proud of her pioneer ancestors and loved sharing the stories and journal entries of her ancestors. She raised her children and grandchildren on their stories and instilled her love for these ancestors in many other family members. Nina loved planning and organizing huge family reunions and as part of family vacations and insisted on visiting many cemeteries to see the grave markers of ancestors. Nina also loved history and served as a docent in the Oakland Museum while living in California. Because of the knowledge she gained while at the museum, the family enjoyed many wonderful vacations planned by Nina as they went to gold rush sites, panned for gold and learned to love the stories of the old timers!
Nina was very politically active her entire life and as a daughter of a US Senator, she attended many events at the Senate Chambers, The White House and had many experiences not many young teenagers have the opportunity to enjoy.
Nina was a very detailed record keeper and put together over 100 large three ring binders on her life, her ancestors’ lives, her husband’s life and his ancestors. Nina was always trying to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, both at home and abroad and was never shy of sharing her testimony of and her belief in her Savior, Jesus Christ. Nina was a devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout her life and enjoyed serving in many church callings.
As a widow, Nina sold the family home in Holladay, left the hustle and bustle of the Wasatch Front and followed her daughter and family out to Erda, to enjoy the beauty of Tooele County. Nina loved the openness of the country, the beautiful sunsets, the mountain views, the dark starry nights Erda offered, and the friendly neighbors. Nina spent many hours sitting on her front porch enjoying the serenity of country life!
Nina loved spending time with all her “special nieces” and going out to lunch down in Orem at the Sizzler. She looked forward to these fun lunches with her niece Carol and her wonderful daughters Diane, Janet and Andrea. She also loved going out to lunch with the “Bountiful Cousins” Andrea, Mary Lee, Laurel and sometimes cousin Kent! Many happy memories and deep friendships were forged over the years with intergenerational get-togethers! Nina loved everything the color blue, dolls, reading, and all things historical!
Nina was preceded in death by her husband Martin and their son Art, as well as her parents, siblings, and most of her dear friends. She is survived by her children Marty (Dave) Wallace, Bill Palmer, Ginny (Mike) Vielstich; as well as her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She will also be missed by many nieces, nephews, and neighbors.
Funeral services will be held at the Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park & Mortuary Chapel, 3401 S. Highland Dr., Salt Lake City, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at 11 a.m. Viewing to be held one hour prior. In an abundance of caution, the family respectfully requests that masks be worn.
The funeral services can be viewed online at the Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park website by going to the “recent obituaries” and clicking on Nina’s name.
Deep gratitude is expressed for all those who shared their time over the years to make Nina’s life pleasant by stopping by to chat, making time for a phone call or sending a card, bringing over flowers or dropping off yummy cookies. Your kindness was always noticed, appreciated and for sure was recorded by the angels above! A special thank you to her granddaughter Hailey who spent countless hours with Grandma, listening to her stories and rendering compassionate care the last 1-½ years.
Endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternities.