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Dantzel White Nelson died last Saturday at her Salt Lake City home. Her funeral was on Friday at noon.

A contingent of the Chi Omega pledge class of 1943 has been meeting for lunch every month for almost 60 years. Over casseroles, cannoli or crepes, these 10 or so University of Utah sorority sisters have laughed about wedding faux pas and false labor pains, shared shopping tips and recipes, bragged about the successes of children and cried over losses like divorce, death and disillusionment.

On Thursday, there was only one topic of conversation: their unflappable Chi Omega sister Dantzel White Nelson.

Nelson died suddenly but peacefully last Saturday at her Salt Lake City home while holding hands with Russell Nelson, her husband of almost 60 years.

The lunching ladies remembered Dantzel Nelson's white-haired elegance and regal stature. They thought of the parties she'd hosted and the exquisite meals she'd cooked. They spoke of her fondness for the latest LDS novel, old movies, Utah sports teams, wizardry with a sewing machine and 20 years singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Though married to a heart surgeon and LDS apostle, though traveling as far away as Brazil, Ghana, Israel and China, their 79-year-old friend had never lost the innocence of a farm girl from Perry, Utah. She developed no airs, no pretenses, no judgments, no boundaries.

Mourners of every age packed the Bonneville LDS Stake Center near the University of Utah for Nelson's funeral Friday. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' three-man First Presidency, nearly all 12 apostles, numerous members of the Quorums of the Seventies, and about 100 members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir were on hand to memorialize her.

All that attention might have made Nelson wince.

She was not a ''limelight person,'' daughter Marsha McKellar told Spencer Condie, Russell Nelson's biographer in 2003. "She thrives in the background."

On the farm, young Dantzel enjoyed the freedom to roam and explore, McKellar said Friday. She also learned discipline and hard work, which paid off at Box Elder High School, where she graduated at 16 as the ''Outstanding Senior Girl.''

And oh, how she loved to sing.

It was her lilting soprano that helped her win scholarships and attention at the U., which she began in the fall of 1942.

Many of the boys were off to war, freeing the girls to create their own fun.

Maybe that's why the sorority sisters developed such a closeness, said Frances Ellen Anderson McKay.

On the night of their Chi Omega initiation, Dantzel and Frances Allen McKay decided to sneak out between turns.

''I went first because my name started with an A,'' McKay recalled. ''And Dantzel would be almost last because she was a W.''

The twosome climbed out the window and shimmied down the side of the sorority house to get a soda and French fries at the College Inn (now Kinko's on University Ave.) They got back in plenty of time for the Ws.

''It was really scary for two sedate girls," McKay said. "But I always had fun with Dantzel. She was full of it.''

At the U., Nelson enjoyed performing in musicals, dance clubs and plays. It was in one of them, a Broadway-bound musical, ''Hayfoot, Strawfoot,'' that she met her future husband. They dated for three years, then married in the Salt Lake LDS temple on Aug. 31, 1945. She was the first of the Chi Omegas to marry.

''We watched her love story unfold,'' said Nonie Nelson Sorensen.

Dantzel had been accepted to Julliard School of Music in New York City, but marriage changed all that. The couple moved first to Minnesota, where Russell Nelson went to medical school, then to Washington, D.C., and Boston.

The couple returned to Utah in 1956 with four daughters and piles of debt - they had even sold their blood to help pay tuition. And the babies kept coming. Nine of them. All girls.

But Nelson always knew she would have a boy, said neighbor Effie Dean Rich. ''She said she could see his face. That's the way she was.'' Russell M. Nelson, Jr. was born on March 21, 1972.

In the 30 plus years Rich has lived next door to the Nelsons on their Salt Lake City circle, she said, she has never seen Dantzel Nelson get angry. Nor complain, even after a five-year bout of cancer and ongoing heart trouble.

Nelson went quietly about mothering 10 children, 56 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. It was like running a small country. She organized monthly ''Family Nights'' and The Nelson Newsletter to note and celebrate milestones. She held ''Grandma's Sleepovers'' and music recitals to foster a bond with each grandchild. And she made a quilt for every one of her children and grandchildren at the time of their marriage.

She even made a quilt for all the neighbor's children who got married, Rich said.

After Russell Nelson became an LDS apostle in 1984, the family's life was constantly interrupted by the couple's travels abroad. But Dantzel always brought pieces of it back to adorn her home. Handmade dolls, porcelain figures, Christmas tree ornaments.

Her love of women, starting with those nine daughters, progressively spiraled outward. After her daughter, Emily, died of cancer, Nelson embraced her son-in-law's new wife as a new daughter. She was an active participant in the ''Squeakers and Squawkers,'' a group for women musicians. She entertained wives of other LDS general authorities, neighbors and Mormon women in other countries. At each stop on her life's journey, she would pick up new friends, without dropping the old.

"She was always approachable," recalled Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley on Friday. "Everywhere we went people crowded around her."

Given the number of her posterity, Hinckley said, "Dantzel will become a legend to the generations that follow."