Nellie Gephardt Amondson
Birth Date: August 11, 1921
Death Date: March 21, 2017
Nellie Emma Gephardt Amondson, for nearly four decades a popular teacher at San Diego Mesa College, passed away peacefully at age 95 on March 21, 2017, at the home of her eldest daughter in Irvine.
Born August 11, 1921, in Kiowa, Colorado, to farmers of German ancestry, Nellie was the eldest of six siblings from the union of Robert Shelly Gephardt and Marion Esther Tichenor. Youngest brother Donald Gephardt of Little Rock, Arkansas, remains. She completed college at University of Colorado, Boulder, in 1943; she also received pilot training in 1944. After years of teaching grade school and junior high in San Francisco, Nellie moved to San Diego in 1962 to study at UCSD’s Scripps Institute of Oceanography and San Diego State College, completing her MA in mathematics in 1966. Unusually hardy, Nellie retired at age 80 from teaching algebra, geometry, and calculus to generations of students in her patient kindergarten style.
From 1975 on she lived at 6281 Hannon Court near Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, where she planted this large corner lot with cacti removed from the path of 805 and a eucalyptus tree that is now a towering giant. She also stacked the driveway with boxes of books and magazines discarded weekly from La Jolla Public Library, to sort and donate to schools and hospital waiting rooms. Always sociable and generous, she was well known in earlier years for folk dancing and bridge parties, hiking in the desert, cleanups of parks and beaches, quilting, and huge Thanksgiving feasts. She opened the doors of her expanded house and her heart to youth, unwed pregnant girls, foreign students, and single mothers who needed assistance, even a few of the homeless after 2008, and treated many nearly like her own children.
Nellie is survived by three daughters from her first husband, Joseph Arrigo (1914-2008; US Army 1942-62): social psychologist Jean Maria Arrigo, Ph.D., married to John Crigler; sociologist Linda Gail Arrigo, Ph.D.; and physician Sue Ann Arrigo, M.D. Linda Gail, who resides in Taipei, Taiwan, is mother to Nellie’s only grandchild, biotech inventor and entrepreneur Roger Jinteh Arrigo Chen. Roger visited his beloved grandmother last on March 14 with his wife Chen-Chen and young children Maxwell and Rosalind. We treasure the picture of Nellie smiling broadly in the embrace of her great-grandson.
Among other travels and adventures, Nellie is known among Taiwanese-Americans in California for her participation in their world-wide human rights campaign of 1980, together with Linda Gail, for open trial of imprisoned Taiwan democratic movement leaders, among them then-son-in-law Shi Mingde. Back in San Diego, Nellie later became active in school board elections and even issues of police violence. Accompanying Jean Maria, she interviewed US military intelligence veterans with moral injuries. She joined with five other teachers in a successful 1988 lawsuit against the SD Community College chancellor for financial malfeasance. She served two terms on the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women, receiving a Letter of Appreciation in 1994. In her later years Nellie was an active member of the Clairemont Hills and Kearny Mesa Kiwanis clubs.
Satisfied in the completion of her life, Nellie refused any invasive life extension and chose to be buried naturally through a program of the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 6, 2:00-4:30 pm. The service will follow on the Kiwanis 32nd annual Miracle Mile of Quarters at Rady Children’s Hospital, in the morning. See the Nellie Amondson memorial site on Facebook, now in preparation, for precise location. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for the program, and post your sharing of memories and pictures of Nellie on the site.