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Mary Elizabeth Nilles

Mary Elizabeth Nilles


Mary E. Nilles, was born in Rollingstone, Minn., May 19, 1943, and passed away Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Arnold Nilles and Ardella Scherbring-Nilles; her brothers, Myron and Kent; and her aunt, Tata Hattie Nilles.

Her great-grandparents, Jean-Baptiste Nilles and Elizabeth Seiwert, immigrated to America, in the mid-19th century, from Fischbach, Canton Mersch, in Luxembourg.

Mary attended and graduated from Holy Trinity School in Rollingstone. She attended college at Saint Theresa’s College in Winona and received her master’s degree from Long Island University and her doctorate from New York University (NYU). Mary was a Fulbright Professor in Belgium and Luxembourg, from 1973 to 1975. Mary taught contemporary literature at NYU, and for many years through the present, Mary was a professor of English at New York City College of Technology (CUNY) in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mary is the author of a series of books and exhibitions on Luxembourger immigration to the Midwest. She spent many years of research into the history of her family and other families around Rollingstone, and their roots in the “Old Country,” the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Over the years, Mary was often named and pictured in numerous articles in the Winona Daily News and the Luxembourg News of America. Mary was granted the title Dame of Luxembourg, and she recently obtained her Luxembourg citizenship.

Mary frequently visited Luxembourg, where she made many friends. She encouraged many Americans of Luxembourgian descent to visit their ancestors’ country of Luxembourg. She was very involved in the Nicholas Marnach House and helped welcome many Luxembourgers to Winona County, especially to visit that restored home of a Luxembourger pioneer family in Whitewater Township, Minn.

Everyone who ever met Mary is better having known her. Besides all her friends in Luxembourg, Mary had many good friends in Staten Island, Rollingstone, Winona, and many other places. We will all miss her, her greatness, her warmth, her friendship, her generosity and her vivacious temperament. Her five cats were like her kids to her and will surely miss her, too.

Mary is survived by her brothers, Brad Nilles (Laurie, deceased), Kerry (Kathy) Nilles and Brian (Lora) Nilles. She is also survived by nephews, Doug (Michelle) Nilles, Luke Nilles, Alex Nilles; and nieces, Martha Nilles, Hannah Scholten (Paul) and Anja Nilles; as well as great-nieces and nephews, Max and Samantha Sipma and Aubrey and Reid Nilles. Special recognition to Sheila Cunningham, Bonnie Enright, Dr. Dan Melman and John Fend, for their extraordinary care, friendship and support to Mary over the years.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, with visitation starting at 9:30 Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Rollingstone. Private family interment to follow at Holy Trinity Cemetery. Masks and social distancing protocols will be in place.

May Mary rest in peace and may perpetual light shine upon her.

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