Nancy Norman Beeler


January 14, 1929 - March 12, 2013

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Anne Rose Morton Norman (Nancy) Beeler was born January 14, 1929 in Asheville, North Carolina, to Anne Morton of Asheville and Greenville, South Carolina, and Charles Norman, of New York City. She was educated at Saint Genevieve of the Pines School in Asheville and the Ashley Hall School of Charleston, South Carolina before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1947, where she earned an AB in English in 1949. Upon graduation, she returned to Asheville, where she worked as an advertising copywriter for WSKY Radio. In 1951, she followed her father back to Manhattan, where she worked for two years as a copywriting trainee at the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency. In 1953, she returned home to Asheville to join her mother and young sister, Elisabeth (Betsy) Wood, and returned to copywriting for WSKY. In 1955, she returned to Chapel Hill with the intention of pursuing a graduate degree in English, and took a position as secretary to the Division of Cardiology of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, working directly for Dr. Ernest Craige, head of the department at that time. While employed in this position she was introduced by mutual friends to her husband of fifty-two years, James Rush Beeler, who was at that time a graduate student and professor of French in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of North Carolina. It would later come out that the two had been in the same crowd in Woolen Gymnasium on a stifling May evening in 1949, as Rush received his Master’s degree in French at the same commencement ceremony at which Nancy received her Bachelor’s degree. The two courted and were married at the Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill at Christmas, 1961, and set up house on Airport Road. In 1962, the couple moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, where Rush had been hired to teach at the College of William and Mary. Nancy took a position as secretary to Coatsworth Lewis, rector of Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg. In November, 1965, Nancy gave birth to the couple’s only child, James. In 1969, Rush was offered a position at Wilmington College, which was to become the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, in Wilmington, North Carolina. The young family moved to Wilmington, joining the mutual friends who had originally introduced them, Jack and Vivian Sparks, as well as an acquaintance of Rush’s from his studies in Paris, the painter Claude Howell. In Wilmington, which was to be the couple’s home together for the next forty-three years, Nancy devoted herself to making a home for her family and raising her son. During the intervening years, she was to be involved as a volunteer with the Hospital Auxiliary; North Carolina Sorosis; The United Way; the New Hanover County Museum, where her work included researching the history of Wilmington’s African American community; the Child Development Center of Wilmington; the North Carolina Symphony; Girls, Incorporated; the American Cancer Society; and was Vestry Clerk at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Her memberships included the UNCW Faculty Wives; the Junior League; the League of Women Voters; The Society of Colonial Dames in the State of North Carolina, and she acted as Curator pro-tem for the Burgwin-Wright house. Nancy worked also for the political campaigns of George McGovern and Jim Hunt, was a delegate to the 1972 North Carolina Democratic convention, and was a precinct worker at her neighborhood polling site throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Nancy is survived by her husband Rush, her son James and his wife, Annalisa Erba, of New York City and her sister, Elisabeth Wood Winston of Greensboro. She will be remembered as tireless in defense of those people and causes dear to her, witty and always willing to speak her mind, and indefatigable as a wife and mother. She will be greatly missed. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Nancy’s memory be made to Girls, Incorporated, dedicated to encouraging girls to become strong, smart and bold, Heifer International, whose mission is working with communities worldwide to end hunger and poverty by donating sustainable, income-producing livestock to families in need, or the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research. Among those dearest to Nancy were friends made at all stages along the way, too numerous to list here; you know who you are. A simple interment ceremony will be held at Christ Episcopal Church, Greenville, South Carolina Thursday, March 14th at 3:00 p.m.

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