Thursday, October 27, 2022

Nancy Levis Williams – 1929-2022

She gave me many gifts: a love of writing, music, the outdoors, a good book, and an appreciation for such immeasurable things as a quiet evening on the back porch, the sweet scent of dew-damp grass, a good meal shared with the family, and knowing that no matter what, we had someone we could call.

I can’t look around my house and not see something of her. Row upon row of books that she sent me, sharing her love of history and a good mystery. Row upon row of old records from classical to jazz, sharing with me her love of Ella, Duke, and Dave. The first 8-track in her 1967 Ford Country Squire was “Take Five,” and it was the first cassette in my 1988 Pontiac. She taught me well. Artworks, paintings, prints, my grandmother’s grand piano, the songbooks, area rug, and her sense of taste that only she could know exactly where to hang the Miro print and the O’Keeffe poster. She followed my playwriting and read (and critiqued) my work, both on the stage and on my blog where she was the “Faithful Correspondent.” There are things you learn from that kind of reader that you cannot get from anyone else.

She and Dad raised four very different children, and anyone who knows our family knows that there couldn’t be four more different souls, yet each with their own gifts for raising their own family, being creative, being teachers, succeeding in business, and through it all with a sense of decency and love. They gave us such gifts as good schools, summer camp, summers at the lake, family ski trips, and many an evening sitting around the dining room table telling terrible jokes and making very passable animal calls… you had to be there. It was all part of being our family. She embraced our spouses and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She mourned our losses, and to the very end, she hoped I would find someone again so I wouldn’t be alone.

Mom would be the first to tell you that she had her faults and disappointments. But that is what makes her — and all of us — human, and if we count hers, we have to count our own as well.

She and Dad had a strong sense of giving back to the community through leadership in Planned Parenthood, the Nature Conservancy, the arts, and many other ways that paid back for the gifts we’d been given. On the morning Dad died, May 25, 2020, she e-mailed the four of us this note:

“I want you to know, if you don’t already, that your father adored all of you, alone or together. He was so proud of you, how you’ve conducted yourselves as grown-ups, and how you’ve kept close to him even as the miles kept us apart. You were his greatest accomplishment, truth be told. All individuals in your chosen paths, but contributors to your communities in your own ways. Please keep his memory enshrined by going forward as he would have you do; giving back and making sure that wherever you are, you’re not just sitting, but marching.”

One of the places she loved most in the world was our summer home on Northport Point, Michigan. She went there as a little girl, and from 1960 on, we spent four weeks every summer at my grandmother’s house overlooking Northport Point Bay. In 1974, she and Dad bought the house next door, and in 1982, they moved there permanently from the house we’d grown up in in Perrysburg. They moved back to Perrysburg in 1997, but she never forgot the view. It was immortalized in a magnificent painting by Sallie McClure Stanley, and it hung on the wall in her room. I would like to think that the last thing she saw when she closed her eyes for the last time yesterday morning was that view of the waters of Northport Point Bay.

Good night, Mom. We love you too.

6 barks and woofs on “Nancy Levis Williams – 1929-2022

  1. Bobby, what a wonderful tribute to your mom you’ve shared here. I’m wishing you strength and courage, peace and love in the days ahead.


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