Elsa Edith Stowell Print E-mail

Elsa Edith Stowell

curious, dutiful, exacting
, kind-hearted, tough, hopeful


Elsa Edith (Nilsson) Stowell died on December 15, 2022, after a very long life and a very short illness. She was the daughter of Emil Alfred Nilsson and Johanna Ida (Guenther) Nilsson, the half-sister of Walter Gottlieb Wiede, the sister of Emil Oscar Nilsson, and for almost 60 years the wife of Robert “Bob” Stowell, who died on January 22, 2020.

Elsa was born on January 22, 1932, in the house her father built at 5 Yale Street in North Chelmsford--the only house she ever lived in. She grew up as an active member of Trinity Lutheran Church, which was then the center of the Swedish immigrant community in South Lowell. Elsa sang in the choir and played center forward on the girls’ basketball team.

When her mother died in 1942, young Elsa became the woman of the house, taking care of her father as much as he took care of her. When her half-brother was killed in action in 1945, Elsa fought to have Yale Street renamed in his memory as Walter G. Wiede Street. (Years later, Elsa often had to fight to get the street signs spelled correctly.)

Elsa graduated from Chelmsford High School in 1949. Her yearbook listed her interests as corny jokes, skating, and cooking, and described her as a “sweet and sincere friend.” Elsa then worked for 11 years as a clerk, stenographer, and bookkeeper at Pratt & Forrest lumber yard in Lowell, where her “duties were carried out efficiently, accurately, and neatly.”

When a Catholic guy from Lowell named Bob asked her out, Elsa said yes. When they wanted to get married and some disapproved, Elsa eloped with him. And after they were married, Elsa left her job to start a family. Elsa’s interest in history helped their son Stephen find a career in historic preservation; her interest in art led to their son Scott’s career in design. Elsa always made the best of things.

After Bob was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013, Elsa dealt with everything Bob had always taken care of. Months later, she had a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Elsa not only survived but thrived, regaining all of her cognitive function and most of her mobility. Using a wheelchair, Elsa maintained a regular exercise regimen for the rest of her life.

Elsa repeatedly outlived everything from a broken neck to a COVID-19 infection. When Bob’s dementia progressed, Elsa decided to move into memory care together so she could keep an eye on him. Wherever they were, Bob and Elsa kept making friends. And whenever Elsa met somebody in need, she wanted to help them. Elsa tried to do her best.

Elsa leaves her son Stephen Stowell, his wife Alyson (Garland) Stowell, and their daughter Kathryne Stowell, all in Chelmsford; her son Scott Stowell and his wife Carmen Morais in New York City; many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews; and all the family, friends, doctors, nurses, therapists, aides, and more who helped her “keep going,” as she would say.

She loved animals (especially cats), anything lemon, ballroom dancing, breakfast, flowers, free brochures, maple walnut ice cream, meeting new people, mornings, photography, pickled herring, salmon, sharing an English muffin with Bob, shopping, trying new things, Turner Classic Movies, and the word “wonderful.” She would also love it if you made a donation to help animals at aspca.org.

STOWELL--Everybody is invited to O’DONNELL FUNERAL HOME at 276 Pawtucket Street in Lowell from 4 to 7 pm on Tuesday to celebrate Elsa’s life. Elsa’s funeral service will be at 10 am on Wednesday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Chelmsford, with her burial afterwards at Pine Ridge Cemetery in Chelmsford. E-condolences/directions at www.odonnellfuneralhome.com. Arrangements by Funeral Director James F. O’Donnell, Jr. (978) 458-8768.

Condolences (2)
  • Deborah Nilsson Babinski  - Aunt Elsa
    After reading the loving life story of Aunt Elsa, I realized I was deprived of knowing an amazing lady. As a child, we moved for my Dad’s (Emil O. Nilsson) job promotions and at around 12 years of age, the families lost touch. I remember Aunt Elsa’s dark dark thick shoulder-length hair, fine skin, and beautiful smile. She always kept the sweet house immaculate and was proud of it. She had an uncanny knack for knowing when I was in the baby chicks’ pen (with the upside-down Tom Terrific funnel to keep them warm). Yes, she always came and got me, told me not to do it again, and whenever we visited, it happened again. From her obituary, I learned she was only 18 when I was born. I would like to think we could have been good friends, with so much we had in common. Skating, for example, my dad made, tended and skated with me every year in our back yard on the rink. The love of cats, the adventurous nature we have, loving her church, proud of her Swedish heritage, and the love for her family and friends. I remember sitting looking at the bubble Christmas tree lights with my GRAMPA as he taught me Swedish. Words that are long gone. I have a row of bubble lights on my tree each year and a bubble night light. Grampa was the only one able to eat peas sliding down his knife. Made me giggle. And when Aunt Elsa married Uncle Bob, love was in the air. As a young girl, that was a dream for my future. It came true with an awesome man. I loved Uncle Bob and his silliness and teasing ways. Stephen and Scott, I know from what I have learned, grew up in such an awesome household with these great people. How blessed they have been. Just a few months ago, at 72, I went ziplining across the river connecting Alabama and Georgia. I feel Aunt Elsa, if physically able, would have been up for this fun challenge. As it is said, she liked to try new things. We are both, I feel, strong Swedish warriors, digging in and handling the situations life presented, good and bad. We love our family and want the best for them. Pickled herring, salmon, cats, ballroom dancing (yes as a teen, I took classes), flowers, and try to help someone when I can. Art is a favorite pasttime of mine, also. So, is it in the blood? Stephen and Scott are my only blood cousins. We have just recently connected and I’m already blessed by their kindness and acceptance. They are rapidly becoming very special to me. Though they will miss this wonderful lady, she has left them with a lifetime of love and memories to always hang on to, especially now. I hope I can be of some support for them as I just lost my husband and mom within two months of each other in 2021. My dad’s been gone nearly 15 years because of Alzheimer’s. The National Cemetery is about 90 miles away and I visit about once a month to visit my husband and dad. It’s not easy and will always be painful but I will be there to share with Stephen and Scott, any way I can. Prayers for them and friends at this horrific loss. And as much as the pain and loneliness is here with us, think of all the loved ones that welcomed her into Heaven on December 15th. You two guys have been so blessed and now your mom and dad can watch over you, together again.
  • Ellen White Warf
    Please accept our deepest condolences of the passing of your mom. My dad worked with Bob at the Courier Citizen. My Mom wishes to extend her sympathy to your family. Our dad passed away in July and we understand how difficult this time can be. With Love, Ellen White Ward. Martha and Jerry Whites daughter
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