Rev. Christina Marie Neilson

Simple Cremation - Rochester, NY - Rochester Cremation

Gates:  Born April 8, 1958; died peacefully July 9, 2015 of complications from her leukemia bone marrow transplant.  Preceded in death by her mother Beryl Walberg and infant daughter Amanda. Survived by her wife, Sharon Hoyenga, father Clifford Walberg, brother Mike Walberg, sister Terri Walberg, niece Samantha, nephews Cory and Chad, and many friends and colleagues.

Chris received degrees from St Cloud University, St Cloud, MN; Samuel Merritt College of Nursing, Berkeley, CA; and Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, CA.  She was a hematology/oncology bone marrow transplant nurse at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley  for 10 years, a Parish minister at Southwest Unitarian Universalist Church in North Royalton, OH for 10 years, and most recently a Consultant to the St Lawrence Unitarian Universalist District. She was married to Ron Petzoldt for 20 years and later in a domestic partnership with Sharon Hoyenga for 13 years. Christina and Sharon were married on July 27, 2013.  She enjoyed participating in theatre (the SCSU Theatre, Paul Bunyan Playhouse, and L’homme dieu group) and was passionate about her ministry and about Unitarian Universalism. Christina  loved and was loved by many.

Rev. Neilson served as minister at SouthWest UU for ten years. She was instrumental in helping the congregation buy its first building in North Royalton, Ohio in 2009. In May, 2012, she was named Congregational Life Consultant to the St. Lawrence District and moved to Rochester. Rev. Neilson was known as “a firm believer in shared ministry and an evangelist for Unitarian Universalism.” (SLD Newsbriefs, May 2012). A passionate advocate for social justice, she worked on the issues of poverty and homelessness in Greater Cleveland. She advocated for LGBT youth and was a regular participant at Cleveland Pride, where she marched with the SWUU delegation and presided at civil union ceremonies for same sex couples.

Her Memorial Service will be held Sunday, July 26, 2015, 3 P.M. at First Unitarian Church, 220 Winton Rd South Rochester NY 14610.  A Memorial Service will also be held at West Shore UU Church on August 23, 2015 at 4 PM in Rocky River OH.

Heartfelt thanks to the entire staff of the Bone Marrow Transplant unit in the Wilmot Cancer Center. They became our family in the year Chris spent there. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Wilmot Cancer Institute at Strong Memorial Hospital, 601 Elmwood Ave, Rochester, NY 14642.

Rochester Cremation, 4044 W. Henrietta Road, Rochester NY 14623, 359-2300,

6 Condolences

  1. joAnn Smiley on July 17, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    My condolence to Sharon & Chris’s family. I am so glad I got to meet her even tho it was brief but definitely got a warm feeling from her and could tell how happy she and Sharon were. RIP Chris – I am so sorry you had to leave so soon.

  2. Brian Hurlburt on July 17, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    What a great life and story Chris is leaving us, a ministry still here in our hearts. I’ve only know Chris and Sharon for a short time but love and loved them both dearly. Blessings to you Sharon and to the rest of the family. We will all miss you Chris.

  3. Peggy Meeker on July 24, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Chris was a dear and wise and kind friend and colleague and I miss her! Love to Sharon!

  4. Kathy Tew Rickey on July 24, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    My heart aches at the loss of Chris. She was a great mentor to me and I was fortunate to spend many hours discussing Unitarian Universalist ministry with her during her hospitalizations. Chris had a wide open heart, a sharp mind, and a great spirit about her. I am grateful to know her and I will miss her dearly.

    To live in hearts that love is not to die.

  5. Celie Katovitch on July 25, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Holding Chris in thoughts of peace, and wishing light and comfort to her dear ones.

    With deepest condolences,

    –Celie Katovitch

  6. John Gibb Millspaugh on August 20, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    So many are grieving this loss, and sending love and care to Sharon and Chris’s circles from close by and far away.

    Chris embodied, in a way that few can, the fullness of Unitarian Universalist spirituality and leadership. Without fanfare, she helped many find a community and outlook they would not otherwise have known could be theirs. Her work for justice was grounded in experiences that could have weakened her faith in humanity, but which often seemed to strengthen her–experiences that she used as fuel to stand for the worth of those around her whom society might have otherwise chosen to ignore. She was an institutionalist–she believed not only the power of spirituality and spiritual communities, but also in the power of spiritual organizations and movements. She did her part to ensure that those organizations and institutions would thrive over time, as something more than the sum of the individuals and communities who flowed through them.

    She was an exemplar of how it is possible to live in this world with the greatness, humility, and fierce love. I and my colleagues in ministry are the better for having known her. She is greatly missed, and I take comfort knowing that her will long continue to shape our ministry and our world.

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