Mary Ann Nielsen Zimmerman Larsen, 99, was born on July 9, 1922 at Ferncliff in Erie, PA to Andrew Nielsen and Anna Kupper Nielsen. She was the second born in a close-knit set of four children. Her father, the son of Danish immigrants, was a railroad switchman and an inventor, and a founding member of Sommerlyst Danish Club in Erie, PA. Her mother immigrated to the United States from Guben, Germany in 1914 aboard the ship the Pretoria (it shared paths with the Titanic on the night the Titanic sank).
Mary Ann survived a bout of Scarlet Fever and quarantine in a “plague” ward at a hospital alone at the age of four. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II. She married her high school sweetheart Charles Zimmerman, Jr. of Erie, PA. He was a gunner’s mate third class aboard the submarines the USS Wahoo and the USS Gudgeon. She was widowed at the age of 21 when the Gudgeon was destroyed by a Japanese bomb off of Iwo Jima. Years later she met and married her second husband, Alfred Larsen—an officer of the US Coast Guard. Alfred was also a veteran of World War II and spent many years working for the US Fish Commission and was instrumental as one of the primary scientists in introducing the steelhead fish to the Pennsylvania/Lake Erie region.
Mary Ann was a born artist, and as an adult she became a professional in photography and in the fine arts. She was known for her sketches and paintings of sunsets over Lake Erie, and had a private studio for many years. She was a founding member of the North East Arts Council, Picnic in the Park, and was a scion of the North East Chamber of Commerce for many years. She was a major advocate for bringing accessible art to the masses. She was a fixture of the sunset crew at Freeport Beach, always opportune for a quick sketch.
She was a long-time member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Having gone through several very dark periods in her life, she developed a resounding and steadfast Faith. She was resolute in that when there is need, God will provide. She was rife with wisdom and witty words to show her love for God and share His lessons.
Thursday January 20, 2022 was “a glorious day in Heaven” when Mary Ann finally went home. Our hearts are sore but grateful that she is finally where she longed to be, with her God and with those whom she loved so much and had lost in her life. She leaves behind her daughter, Melissa Haynes of North East, PA and her son Eric Larsen (Mary) of Ortonville, Michigan. Surviving are her grandchildren: Caitlen Schneider (Nicholas) of North East, PA and Maureen Bannister (Jeremy—to whom she was also the proud godmother) of Harborcreek, PA; Shannon Yaw (Chris) of Chardon, Ohio, and Nicholas Larsen (Maria) of Norfolk, Virginia. She loved her great-grandchildren: Odessa, Orion, River, Murdock, Wolfgang, and Freja. She has so many people that were like family to her, though not related by blood. She had two very special friends who stuck close by her throughout the years: Carolyn McIntosh, Kathy Cunningham. To the beautiful friendship she had with Lucy Martin and her family----it meant so much to her and she looked forward each year to the Christmas carols. She loved her bible study buddies: Pete and Darlene.
She is survived by many and beloved nieces and nephews throughout the Erie area/Oregon/Washington/California regions. She cherished their visits and loved them dearly.
She was preceeded in death by her parents Andrew Nielsen and Anna Bertha Kupper Nielsen, her siblings: Bette Selkregg, Andrew “Bill” Nielsen, Margaret Wells ; her husbands Charles Zimmerman Jr and Alfred Larsen. Also preceeding her in death are her son-in-law Jim Haynes and her grand-daughter Anna Haynes Brown.
Arrangements were handled by the W. Tad Bowers Funeral Home. 92 S. Lake St., North East, PA. Burial was private at Lakeside Cemetery, per her wishes. There will be a celebration of life at a later date near what would have been her 100th birthday, to be announced a later time. In regards to memorials, the North East Arts Council is accepting donations for a future M.A. Larsen scholarship fund in her name. Please send any contributions to: North East Arts Council, 25 Vine Street, North East, PA 16428.
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