MACHELLE NELSON should've been there yesterday as her family gathered on the East Germantown block where she grew up. She wouldn't have missed a family get-together for the world.

But Nelson, a mother of four and grandmother to five, was painfully absent from the rowhouse on Clearview Street near Washington Lane, where her close-knit family came together to mourn her tragic death.

Nelson, who would have turned 60 this month, was on the couch in her sister's living room Tuesday watching reality TV when her estranged husband, Mark Nelson, walked in the door, pointed a gun at her and fired four shots before pressing the barrel to his own head and pulling the trigger.

"It just doesn't feel right that she's not here," her daughter, Angela Nelson, 33, the second oldest of four children, said yesterday outside the house where her mother was shot.

Angela Nelson had spent much of her mother's last day with her. They went to Rita's for water ice, and were still together about 5:30 p.m. when Mark Nelson burst into the house and violently took her mother's life right before her family's eyes.

"She had a really good last day. She was smiling and happy," Angela Nelson said of her mother, who raised her and her three brothers and worked as a nurse all her adult life to put her kids through private school and college.

Now, Angela Nelson is without her mother at the hands of her stepfather, who she never imagined could inflict so much pain. "She was my everything. She was my best friend," Angela said. "She was funny, smart, you could talk to her about anything. She was always real."

The day she was killed, Machelle Nelson had been honored at the VA Medical Center in West Philadelphia - where she was an assistant nurse manager - for becoming certified as an operating-room nurse, Angela Nelson said.

"She worked really hard," the daughter said.

Angela Nelson said that on April 18, her mother separated from Mark Nelson, her husband of 30 years, with whom she lived on Duval Street in East Mount Airy. He had recently plummeted into depression over losing two siblings and a parent to illnesses and being in an accident that injured him, Angela Nelson said.

"He was spiraling out of control . . . and going through a lot of stuff, and she was bearing that," Angela Nelson said. She said her stepfather hadn't been violent with her in the past.

Machelle Nelson's three sisters also are mourning her loss, as are five grandchildren who range in age from 1 to 13.

"She always was going above and beyond and set a great example, a great foundation," her daughter said. "She will be very, very dearly missed."