Sunday, June 9, 2024

Sally Nelson, founder of Exclusively Diamonds, dies at the age of 86

Mankato, Minnesota – Sally Nelson, founder of Exclusively Diamonds, died on 16 September.


She was 86 years old.


The Minnesota native grew up in Lyle, according to a local report. She was raised by her grandparents after losing her mother in a motorcycle accident when she was five months old.

She met her husband Bob in high school and they married when Sally was 19, according to her online obituary. They had two daughters, Sarah and Betsy.

Bob worked as a teacher, and Sally later joined him, earning her Bachelor of Education degree at the age of 37. She specialised in Speech and Language Pathology and Special Education.

Sally worked as a teacher for 14 years before deciding to turn her love of jewellery into a new career, cashing in her retirement account to get started.

After visiting several banks, she found one that agreed to lend her $45,000 at 21 per cent interest.

“Sally was a pioneer for women-owned businesses. Sally persevered through the challenges along the way,” read her obituary.
Her daughter, Sarah Person, shared memories of her mother in an interview with the Mankato Free Press.

“She cooked dinner every night. We always had dinner as a family,” Person said.

“Mom also worked at the Mankato Rehabilitation Center and tutored students in our home after school and on weekends. She would sit at our dinner table and teach kids how to tell time, count money, help kids lose a lisp or stop stuttering.

Nelson’s daughters joined their mother in the business in the mid-1980s, according to the jeweller’s website, with Betsy working as an in-store goldsmith and Sarah as a part-time saleswoman.

Betsy later moved away and Sarah bought the business when the other retired in 1998.

After retirement, Sally and her husband spent the winters in sunny Arizona and returned home for the summers.

The business has continued down the family line.

Sally’s granddaughter, Maria Brown, became vice president and co-owner of Exclusively Diamonds in 2018. Brown was recently named to Jewelers of America’s “20 Under 40” list and received the American Gem Society’s 2022 Young Titleholder of the Year award.

In a statement, American Gem Society CEO Katherine Bodoh said, “Exclusively Diamonds is a valued AGS member and is actively involved in the AGS community. Sally’s daughter, Sarah Person, is the chair of our Education Committee. Sally’s granddaughter, Maria Brown, is the current Chair of the Young Titleholders. Sally’s legacy lives on through these remarkable women.

Sally was preceded in death by her parents and husband. She is survived by her daughters, Sarah (Chris) Person and Betsy (Randy) Olson, her four grandchildren and her eight great-grandchildren.

A celebration of her life was held last week.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Christ the King Lutheran Church of Mankato or the My Place youth organisation.

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