Cover photo for Sonya Iverson Shelley's Obituary
Sonya Iverson Shelley Profile Photo
1936 Sonya Iverson Shelley 2023

Sonya Iverson Shelley

October 10, 1936 — January 17, 2023

On Tuesday, January 17, 2023, Sonya Iverson Shelley, daughter, wife, mother, died peacefully in her sleep at age 86 in her home in Maryland. 

"Mom taught her daughters to be strong and independent women." 

"Her charm flourished in sincere interest and expressions of love for family and friends." 

Sonya was born in 1936 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to James and Veronica (Peterson) Nelson.  Her parents were educators and sent Sonya to the University of Wisconsin where she earned a bachelors degree in education.  Years later, while raising two young children, she earned a masters degree and PhD in human development from the University of Maryland. 

"Mom insisted that all of us came to dinner where there was always vigorous and challenging discussion."

“She loved interesting conversation on a variety of subjects and encouraged us to be knowledgeable and opinionated.”

Sonya, then, taught at the University of Maryland School of Nursing in Baltimore where she rose to full professor and department head.  She taught her students to infer insights about human behavior using controlled research methods and advanced statistics.  She authored a textbook, Research Methods in Nursing and Health, published in 1984. 

“She taught us how to set the table properly and how and when to use each utensil, just in case we ever had ‘dinner with the president’.  I haven’t had dinner with the president, but in a large banquet table setting, I know exactly which bread plate and water glass is mine!”

She enjoyed painting, making and collecting jewelry, and took great delight and pride in decorating her homes.  She adored her dogs, Libby, Magnum, Sebastian, and Jessie, and she excelled at getting the rest of the family to walk the dogs.  She traveled extensively during her life and lived in a variety places – Wisconsin, Tokyo, Texas, Las Vegas, Flagstaff, and Maryland.  She was an avid reader, enjoyed entertaining, and was passionate about spending time at the beach, especially Ocean City, Maryland. 

"She was one of my moms for as long as I can remember."  

"Mom actually liked liver, but never made us have it."

She was preceded in death by her parents (James and Veronica "Pat"), two brothers (Davin and James), her ex-husband (Robert Iverson) and her husband (Philip Shelley).  She is survived by her daughter, Kaiya Iverson, her step-daughter, Pamela Shelley-Kessler, her son, Eirik Iverson, her step-son, Peter Shelley; her sister, Pamela Guthrie, her nieces and grandchildren. 

"She was bravely blunt and fierce."  

"She made sure all of us kids got a good education, and we did!"

There will be a private memorial service at a future date. 

Please honor Sonya by making contributions to a local Unitarian Universalist church and/or to Planned Parenthood

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sonya Iverson Shelley, please visit our flower store.


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