Obituary: Patricia Jean (Nystuen) Harlow Aug. 3, 1927 – March 17, 2022

PATRICIA JEAN HARLOW Aug. 3, 1927 – March 17, 2022

Patricia Jean (Nystuen) Harlow died peacefully on March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day, 2022, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, at age 94.

She was born on August 3, 1927, in Room 2, at the Northfield Hospital in Northfield, Minnesota. Her mother, Mary Elizabeth (Cooey) Nystuen, was from Le Center, Minnesota, the youngest of eight children. Her father, Oscar Nystuen, was from Milford, Iowa, the sixth child in a family of nine.

Oscar was a supporter of crop rotation, specifically alfalfa preceding the preferred crop. Mary was a devoted schoolteacher and mother.

Patricia, a lifelong Episcopalian, was baptized in 1927 and confirmed in 1940 at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Northfield, Minnesota, a church on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Los Alamos, she was one of the original members of Trinity-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church (joining when it was still a mission church) and remained a devoted member until her death.

By high school, Patricia and her family had moved nine times, including a move to California. She graduated in 1945 from Oroville Union High School in Oroville, California. She enjoyed reading books from an early age, a passion that lasted her entire life. She was a dedicated letter writer and regularly corresponded with family and friends, maintaining lifelong connections through letters, cards, and photos.

After high school, Patricia moved to San Francisco and trained to work as a medical secretary. She loved living in San Francisco and particularly enjoyed a beautifully scenic walk to and from her first job. In the last days of her life, she often recalled how much she enjoyed her life there. 

After a move to Seattle, Washington, Patricia attended the University of Washington and graduated in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography. While she was a student, she worked half-time as a secretary in the physics department, where she met her future husband, Francis (Frank) Harvey Harlow. They were married on June 21, 1952, at the Christ Episcopal Church in Seattle.

Patricia and Frank moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico, where Frank had accepted a job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Patricia embraced the 1950s model of devoted homemaker. She stayed at home to raise four children, kept an immaculate home, and prepared beautiful family meals. She hosted international foreign exchange students, played bridge, put together jigsaw puzzles, and hosted tea parties. Music was an important part of her life, and she enjoyed listening to classical music and opera daily. All her children learned to read music and play musical instruments.

After her children grew up and moved away from home, Patricia volunteered for decades at the Santa Fe Opera costume department and at the Museum of International Folk Art textile department in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She had a deep appreciation for handcrafts, folk, and fine art, and was a skilled seamstress, embroidery artist, and textile expert. Patricia and Frank curated a beautiful private collection that celebrated the Native American Pueblo communities of the Southwest. In addition, Patricia collected beautiful art from her Irish and Norwegian heritage, and from her travels to India, Australia, Europe, Japan, and China.

Patricia was steadfast in her lifelong devotion to the service of others.

Patricia was preceded in death by husband Frank (2016), daughter Carol (2014), sister Carol (2005), nephew Jeff (2021), brother-in-law Bruce (2021), and her friend of 74 years, Caroline Parpia (2021).

Patricia is survived by her children Catherine (Joseph), Celia, Keith; grandchildren Lisa, Adam, Clinton, Haely (David); five great-grandchildren, Liam, Ivy, Johnny, Daisy, Lily; brother and sister-in-law, John and Gwen; nieces Leslie, Deborah, Rebecca; and nephew Daniel.

Patricia donated her body to the University of New Mexico Medical School to be used for research. A memorial service will be held at Trinity-on-the-Hill Episcopal Church, to be announced at a later date. Donations to honor her life may be sent to the charity of one’s choice.

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