Joan Joyce Harrison Nelms

Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Joan Joyce Harrison Nelms, 82, also known as “Jo” or “Mama Nelms,” of Driver, died Tuesday, April 19, 2016. She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, retired business owner, friend to many, and she loved the Lord Jesus Christ.

She was born Aug. 8, 1933, in Honaker, and was the daughter of the late Earnest Estel Harrison and Hattie A. Harmon Harrison. She was preceded in death by her husband, Frank Brinkley Nelms Sr., three brothers and a sister.

Surviving are her children, Jonie N. Mansfield, Lois Nelms, Frank B. “Brink” Nelms Jr. (Cathy) and Robert E. Nelms (Diane), all of Suffolk; five grandchildren, Percy M. “P.M.” Mansfield III (Sarah), of Richmond; Jennifer M. Traugott (David), of Queensbury, N.Y.; Warren Staples, of Chesapeake; Ryan J. Nelms (Lori), of Suffolk; Harrison B. Nelms, of Virginia Beach; and 13 great-grandchildren.

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“Jo” graduated Lebanon High School and attended Emory and Henry College, where she played forward on the women’s basketball team. She and Frank were married Dec. 29, 1952. Together they founded Driver Contractors, Inc., Teach’s Lair Marina in Hatteras, N.C., and Joan Corp., a land development company. They were two of the founders of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, Suffolk First Bank (Xenith), and were major owners in Western Branch Metals. Jo was a member of Berea Christian Church in Driver, where she served on numerous committees over the years, served as president of the Berea Women’s Fellowship, and was instrumental in founding the church library.

She took a great interest in her community by supporting Little League, Boy and Girl Scouts, Driver Volunteer Fire Department and Auxiliary, the homeless shelter, the free clinic, Suffolk Project Lifesaver Search and Rescue, and many other organizations and individuals who worked to better the community. The family wishes to thank the extended family and friends who loved her and rallied around her, the staff at Kindred Nansemond Pointe; Interim Healthcare Hospice, Becky Case, RN; Virginia Oncology, Dr. Cynthia Sile; and her caregivers, Jean, Eunice, Ella, Joanne and Cecelia.

A funeral service will be held Friday, April 22, 2016, at 11 a.m. at Berea Christian Church, 4109 Driver Lane, Suffolk. Visitation will be held Thursday, April 21, 2016, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at R.W. Baker & Co. Funeral Home and Crematory, 509 W. Washington St., Suffolk. Burial will be at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens, followed by a reception in the Berea Christian Church Social Hall in Driver. Memorial donations may be made to Berea Christian Church Memorial Fund, 4109 Driver Lane, Suffolk, VA 23435; Driver Volunteer Fire Dept., Inc., P.O. Box 5243, Suffolk, VA 23435; or her hometown church, Lebanon Memorial United Methodist, 24 Tate Ave., Lebanon, VA 24266. Condolences may be offered at