Friends Remember Nancy Doemel H’91
Steve Charles—Friends, family, and colleagues gathered in the College’s Pioneer Chapel on July 23 to remember and celebrate the life of Nancy Doemel, who established professional grant writing at the College during her 31 years as director of corporate and foundation relations and whose vision and dedication working with organizations throughout Montgomery County embodied the literal meaning of philanthropy as “the love of humanity.”
Rev. John Van Nuys ’83 presided over the service, which was attended by hundreds and included the announcement that Nancy had been named an honorary alumna of the College earlier this year by the National Association of Wabash Men.
NAWM President Rick Cavanaugh ’76 read the official citation:
“Nancy Jane Walcutt Doemel, we celebrate your life here at the College you helped build, a place where the teaching and learning of thousands were enriched by your work, a campus from which you led hundreds on wide-eyed explorations of Scotland, the United Kingdom, and beyond.
“We celebrate your work and vision that helped others see—and reminded us daily—that Wabash is a place people can believe in.
“Teacher, grant writer, citizen of the world, artist, spouse, mother, and friend, you lived with the same integrity you drew upon to bring together disparate individuals and groups to enrich and expand the communities of Crawfordsville and Wabash.
“Your life unfolded like a seamless quilt, and we have thrived in its warmth.
“Thank you for all the early mornings and late nights you spent working on our behalf.
“Thank you for opening your house and sharing your family with us, giving us a taste of home when we needed it most.
“Thank you for challenging us to explore the larger world, and for comforting us when we returned and struggled to integrate that experience into our Wabash educations.
“Finally, thank you for deciding not to be a stay-at-home mom: We got to see your husband, Bill, as both a teacher and Chris’ dad; and we got to see your love for Chris, even while you attended to us.
“Your life so well-lived and loved gave us a deeper understanding of what our alma mater—our nurturing mother—could be, and we, her sons—your sons—are proud to proclaim and remember you always as an honorary alumna of Wabash College.
“Nancy Jane Walcutt Doemel—Some Little Giant!”
Following are some of the remembrances and the sermon offered at the service:
by Ann Kohler
I am Nancy’s sister, Ann Kohler, and on behalf of Bill and me, thank you everyone for coming to help us celebrate the fabulous life of Nancy. We are awed by your support, those who have travelled distances to come, those who have sent cards, emails, letters, and calls. For those friends locally, you are special beyond words for the hours of help you have given Bill in this past month in preparation for today….and thank you as well for those of you who came to my aid during the time I spent with Nancy at the hospital. Please join us in the International Hall following the service for refreshments and a glimpse of Nancy’s final hobby for the last 14 years.
I am honored to tell you about my sister in regards to “family”…
Nancy Jane Walcutt Doemel was sent from God into this world through her parents Irene (Egbert) Walcutt and husband Dale on December 28th, 1944 in Tiffin, Ohio. She was the firstborn grandchild of the Egbert clan and the third in line of cousins on the Walcutt side. When combining families, Nancy and I had 27 cousins in all. Three years and 9 months later, on September 20, 1948; I became her only sibling for life.
Tiffin was a town much like Crawfordsville in size and the home of Heidelberg College. Our Dad traveled almost weekly with his machinery sales job, and Mom was a stay-at-home Mother and carried the bulk of the child-rearing duties. Our parents demonstrated a loving marriage, had pride in working hard to achieve goals, managed an orderly household, and were our strongest cheerleaders in whatever we did. They believed in equality between Nancy and me. What you do for one, you do for the other. So much so that often we got the same Christmas gifts, just different colors.
Mom loved creating beautiful flower beds, sewing, and cooking. So did Nancy! Dad was known as a super salesmen. In a way, so was Nancy! He took great pride in her work as a development officer and would listen intently as she explained the steps she would go through to create a proposal for the college. For him, it was kind of like setting up a sales call.
Mom and Dad did a lot of entertaining in their home and many times, this would include international travelers that were Dad’s customers. We learned how to be sociable, interact, and behave politely around these guests. Could this have planted the seed for Nancy to be the first summer American Field Service student from our high school to travel to Finland or to get fired up about encouraging a total of 762 college students to travel to Scotland to study as the coordinator for Great Lakes Colleges Association?
Make no mistake about it, I looked up to Nancy all my life…beginning as a little kid. Often she was put “in charge” of me which meant I tagged along with her group of friends. I never felt like she did not want me to come along. We went down the enormous slide together at the National Machinery playground park across the street from our house and in the summer would ride our bikes to Hedges Boyer Park to swim in the community pool and lay on the sundeck always getting a popsicle or a taffy candy before coming home. We shared a bedroom together until she left for college. When she got older and Mom and Dad went out for an evening, Nancy babysat me. She got 25¢ an hour and I got 5¢ to be good. When we were sent to Camp Pittenger, the YMCA overnight camp for a week one summer, she comforted me when I cried every night because I was so homesick. We neighborhood girls decorated a clubhouse in an old chicken coop behind somebody’s house and called ourselves THE SHANTUN GIRLS…even had a song “We are the Shantun Girls. We wear our hair in curls. We never play with toys and we always flirt with boys.” (Although at age 7 I don’t think I knew what flirt meant.) We practiced those musical skills by singing along with the 45 rpm records of the 1950’s and if there was a duet, we’d be putting on a show for parents and grandparents. Our all time favorite was “Doo-o Doo-o, Gonna get along without you now, Got along without you before I met you, Gonna Get along without you now.” Do you think this whetted her appetite for her love of music, becoming an excellent pianist, good enough to accompany the high school chorus?
When Nancy entered Junior High, we moved into a new house. As I matured, her responsibility for me eased up and she embraced the next 6 years making lots of lifelong friends, some of whom are here today, experimenting with boyfriends…one who rode a motorcycle…not my parent’s favorite, paving the way for me for parental tiffs with especially my mom(she could push her buttons) about boys, dating, clothes, food, etc. She was an excellent student, an avid reader, worked in the public library as a part-time job, won many academic awards, and was greatly influenced by her literature teachers which is why, I think, she chose to be an English major at Wittenberg. She pledged Kappa Delta(When I went to college, I, too pledged KD…if good enough for her, then good enough for me!) and invited me for a visit when she attended summer school one summer. I remember for entertainment, we drove over to Antioch College and watched from an outdoor amphitheatre, a Shakespearan play in hot, Ohio, summer weather and I thought, “and you think this is fun?” Within a month of college graduation, she and Bill were married and off to Yellowstone Park for Bill’s graduate research.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s with Bill finishing grad school and accepting the job at Wabash and my husband and I in the Air Force, in 1971 our first children were born….same year….Beth first, then Christopher, so Nancy and I shared lots of phone conversations about our kids. We really only saw each other when we could both arrange visits at home at the same time with our parents. We did take one REALLY long car trip together while I lived in South Dakota. We took my station wagon with our parents in the front seats, Nancy and I in the middle, and Chris and Beth in the rear and traveled from Yellowstone , through Glacier National Park, up to Banff, Canada. Nancy had a book about what was coming up at every roadside marker…including the wildflowers we should be seeing. An original Rick Steves. She wanted us all to learn something!
Our favorite family times were probably the last 20 years because we saw more of each other. Our parents left Ohio and had homes in two different places, Fort Myers, FL and Sapphire, NC. (which was only 2 hours from my house in Georgia). Nancy perferred the cooler temperatures and the scenery of Sapphire Lakes, NC and loved visiting the local nurseries while there. This was during the gardening phase of her life and she would arrive with Rubbermaid tubs ready to scout out and bring home plants and shrubs for she and Bill(mostly) to plant. She taught me a lot about considering the colors, textures, sizes, of plants and what would look good together. Kind of like the way she imagined her quilts later on. Many of the perenniels in their garden are from that NC area.
Nancy loved clothes as well. She had snappy jackets, would wear jaunty hats, collected watches, scarves, and bought lots of costume jewelry. To me, she always looked “put together”. In fact, it was Nancy who introduced me to Chico’s and Coldwater Creek.
Nancy’s car burned some tires making trips to Florida, too She and I would try to time our visits together especially on our parent’s birthdays. I remember one year that we were both floored when our dad said he had written a song about mom when he was much younger and then sang it to her in the restaurant right there on the spot, at the table. Not a dry eye after that! In the years when she was bitten by the quilting bug, she always brought along her projects to show us. Never just one quilt….always 4-8 usually; and would set up shop on Mom and Dad’s dining room table or in the motel if she stayed there…sewing machine in tow. How she managed all that loading and unloading using a walker I could never understand. But we loved seeing it all and today recognize so many of those quilts you will see displayed at the reception. She and I tag teamed visits of several weeks at a time when our parents both ended up in the hospital at the same time in Oct. 2011 until our dad died in Feb. 2012. One of us tried to always be there with them. Nancy instituted a daily diary or journal to keep track of doctor visits, meds, notes from care-givers. It was like our Bible. We always discussed options together and made decisions together concerning their well-being. After Dad died and we moved Mom to Georgia, Nancy was here visiting when Mom died 3 ½ months later on June 18th.
Probably most of you in attendance today could speak more eloquently of Nancy’s relationship with Chris and Bill because you lived it on a daily basis with them. Nancy was extremely proud of Bill as a husband, a father, and a son to his mother, Mary. Both of them challenged each other with their knowledge base, loved the students, debated issues, gave back to the community, made the world a better place for others. And they passed that on to Chris by the examples they set. And he was the apple of their eye…a good kid and a terrific man. Books, music, swimming, drama, church involvement, travel, computer skills, loving nature, pets, cooking, curiosity, respect for elders, , they made sure that Chris had exposure to all of these things. As Chris got older, there were things that Nancy could share with Chris that only he would understand….like diets and exercise…because they encouraged each other.
When Nancy summoned John and me to come to Michigan to see Chris in March because she felt the end was near, we immediately headed there. I was in denial about his time left, but it was important for me to tell Chris not to worry about his Mom and Dad that John and I would always be there for them. I will remember our short conversations forever on those 2 days. He was simply Gallant Brave and Strong.
Bill and I spent the days of June 9-June 18 waiting, watching, and wondering if she could gain the strength to fight back and return to life the way she was use to, but it wasn’t meant to be, and on June 18th, my big sis found Chris again…as well as our parents, her mother-in-law, relatives, friends, and God. Mother’s Day was hard for Nancy this year because she told Bill and me that without Chris, she guessed she was no longer a Mother. Not true, we both told her, and she shared with me that sweet Bill found the right words to put in a special note to comfort her.
For me, however, once a sister, always a sister, and when my time comes, I know she’ll be waiting for me.
“To Be Of Use”
Introduction by Professor Emeritus of English Tobey Herzog H’11
I am about to read a poem by Marge Piercy that Nancy selected for this memorial service. Not trusting anything to chance, she also included some of her own commentary on the poem.
The poem’s title—“To Be of Use”–and its message of work “well done” are, I think, a most appropriate description of Nancy’s life. And, indicative of Nancy’s loving and generous spirit, she also fully intended the poem to be a tribute to her husband Bill.
With undergraduate and graduate degrees in English, Nancy, perhaps, found this poem’s free-verse rhythms and multi-faceted images intriguing, but as she wrote in her introduction to the poem, Nancy selected it because she “found it meaningful and used it many times when describing work associated with volunteering.” She goes on to say that the poem captures the beauty and usefulness of common objects. Specifically she writes, “Maybe that’s why I love quilting. Quilts are both useful—keeping you warm if you let them—and beautiful.” And she also cites a favorite line in the poem: “the work of the world is as common as mud.” She remarks that this line reminds us all that in doing the work of the world “there is so much to do, and so much of it is not very rewarding, but it gets us to where we need to be in order to change things.” She goes on to say, “I so admire Bill because he is one of those people who, as the poem characterizes ‘jumps into work head first without dallying in the shadows and swims off almost out of sight.’” she concludes: “Bill did that with the Montgomery County Free Clinic, and he has done it with every job he has ever done…making the world change for the better.”
To Be Of Use
by Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
A Vision to Believe In
by Steve Charles
I’m honored to speak about my friend Nancy’s vocation at Wabash, but a bit overwhelmed. Nancy was part of so many lives—a lot of you worked longer or more closely with her than I did. I hope you’ll take time today at the reception to share your stories with Bill, with all of us. We’d love to hear them.
When I interviewed for my job at Wabash 21 years ago, my last and longest appointment was with Susan Cantrell, then the staff writer. Our free-ranging conversation relaxed me enough to finally ask the question that had been in my heart all day:
Is Wabash a place you can believe in?
Susan paused for just a moment, then said, “Yes.”
When I asked why, she said:
“Because the boys are always learning, the professors are always teaching, and the rest of us get to make it happen.”
Nancy was one of the rest of us, and—man!—did she ever make it happen!
Like her mentors Dick Ristine and Bill Placher, Nancy made Wabash a place you could believe in.
The numbers are impressive enough: More than $30 million over 31 years: funding for the Fine Arts Center, Malcolm X Institute, the Summer Bridge Program, faculty/student research labs, McGregor Lectures, and the renovation of Lilly Library, among others.
Before she began her other job at Wabash—leading the GLCA Scotland Program—only 39 students had participated during its first 16 years. Under Nancy’s direction over the next 17 years, 762 students traveled to the University of Aberdeen—64 in her final year alone.
But Nancy was more about people than numbers.
“There were lot of folks out there who submitted a lot more proposals than I have,” Nancy once told me. “But it’s more important to spend the time finding the right funding source. You get to know those people, learn what they want, and they gain confidence in you as an institution.
“I always thought: Fewer grants, better quality relationships.”
For Nancy, relationships were the essence of Wabash. She said her officemates—folks like Guyanna Spurway, Karen Willis, Mona Clouse—were like her family
She said, “The magic at Wabash is not so much the classes students take as it is the relationships they have with the faculty who teach them. Those relationships lead students to want to learn for the rest of their lives.”
Making connections—between academic disciplines, between departments, between people—is the power of the place.
Dean for Advancement Joe Emmick called it Nancy’s “global” approach to philanthropy at Wabash.
“She is constantly thinking about how to connect alumni with opportunities, broaden the reach of our grants to include people across campus,” Joe said. “That kind of global thinking about advancement has been Nancy’s deeper value to the College these past 30 years.”
So Nancy was a gatherer of gifts.
She was also a giver of gifts.
A miniature stuffed cow showed up on my desk one day a few months after Nancy and I had been talking about Scotland and our shared appreciation for Scottish Highland “Coos”.
When staff members were struggling through a computer system conversion, Nancy lightened the mood by sending them all toy stuffed crows.
There were quilts, birthday cards, flowers, and celebrations. So many ways she showed her appreciation, made you feel like you mattered.
Her sense of humor was among those gifts: She loved to hear Dick Ristine walking up the Kane House stairs singing “Bringing in the Sheaves” whenever he brought up a check.
In one of my favorite stories about Nancy and Bill Doemel the couple, Nancy sewed a quilt celebrating Bill’s classroom antics.
“Students in Bill’s biology course had to dissect a frog, and on the last day of the semester Bill would come to class wearing a frog head I’d made for our son,” Nancy told me. “Then Bill added green scuba flippers and these ungodly green pajamas!”
Where else but Wabash? Who else, other than the Doemels?! How blessed we are to have this family with us.
Trained as an English teacher, Nancy was a gifted instructor and leader.
She brought professional grant writing and prospect research to Wabash, taught it to faculty and staff.
She led by example—she and Bill were among the most active Wabash folks serving Crawfordsville at a time when the institution itself was turned inward.
Nancy believed staying in touch with students was essential, and she loved, as she called them, “those wonderful screwy 18 year olds wearing shorts and sandals when it’s 20 degrees out.”
The affection was mutual. Jeffrey Gunter, who participated in the Scotland Program, recalls meeting with Nancy and deciding to study overseas: “It was another grey February day. Mountains of C&T to read, too many papers to write. Time for a change. I trudged over to Nancy’s office. There I found warmth and her easy welcoming smile. A year spent thousands of miles from home and college was a scary proposition for me, but we worked through the academic details and, yes I could go Scotland and still graduate on time.
“More important, Nancy helped me understand what to expect—that along with culture shock would come a better understanding of myself.”
She saw all of this as a calling: she knew what she was here to do.
“I am remembering the years when I came in early and stayed late because I so believed in what I was doing,” Nancy wrote to me. “These projects and programs and equipment and facilities could change the lives of Wabash students and faculty, if only I could write persuasively enough to capture that corporate and foundation money. And that seemed to me not just my work, but my reason for being. That’s “calling” for me: the feeling that what I do makes a difference to somebody else, makes his/her life better, and that I do it for that purpose rather than the paycheck at the end of the month.”
In the 1990s with the arrival of Paul Pribbenow as dean for advancement, Nancy’s responsibilities changed. Paul remembers it as a teachable moment. He writes,
“I recall conversation after conversation with Nancy, whose passion for Wabash was clear, even as she was being challenged to change how she worked—to take on new duties, to give up long-held responsibilities, to imagine a new vision for philanthropy for the college.
Part of that change—that transformation even—for Nancy was to expand her sense of vocation in the work, to see that her purpose was not simply the professional efforts that had long defined her at the College. She was more than a corporate relations officer, a grantwriter, an administrator of study away programs—she was an artist, a citizen of the wider world, a mother and spouse and friend.”
The expanded sense of calling Paul speaks of only increased Nancy’s respect for the work the rest of us were doing. When I was putting together a committee to improve cross-department communication in advancement, I went to Nancy for suggestions about who to include and in what role. I was amazed at how well she seemed to know us all, particularly our strengths, and why people other than “the usual suspects” would be good for this committee.
Nancy was an unabashedly proud member of the Wabash College staff. For Nancy that was staff spelled with a capital “S,” with no “biweekly, salaried, or Campus Services” qualifiers to separate us.
I don’t know where this egalitarian sense of justice came from—she did read a lot of Bill Placher’s work—but it flared up from time to time, as in this note she wrote to me a couple years ago. She was thanking us for a remembrance we published about Martha Riddle, the woman who had taken care of and cleaned up after us in Kane House and Hays for decades.
“This one stopped me in my tracks,” she wrote. “Somehow the news of Martha’s death had passed me by.
“But, I, too, remember when Martha or Dick Weber or one of the other late-night denizens of the College would stop by my office, either to do their work or to check on me (which was also their work). They made me feel looked after and appreciated, as I hope those times did for them, too.
“Too many of the folks at the college think of people like Martha, Dick as wallpaper; they are there in the background doing their jobs so that others can do the “more important” work. I think of them as the very fabric that knits the place together. Presidents, four-year students, even faculty members come and go, but these people are the ones who are here, year after year, making sure that the grease stays on the wheels, the beautiful flowers at the corner of Wabash and Grant get planted and bloom, and that the many drafts of our work disappear from the wastebaskets night after night so that we can start fresh the next day.”
No one I’ve known had deeper empathy and understanding than Nancy for what it takes—at all levels—to make the Wabash experience happen.
Nancy was about building bridges, not walls.
That vision was never more evident than at hers and Bill’s retirement reception in 2010. Professors, students, administrators, students, alumni, family, old friends, retired professors and staff, folks from the community foundation and others from town, all together to celebrate these two remarkable people. It was a festival of friends. What integrity looks like. And near the end of the day I snapped my favorite photo of Nancy as she took it all in, laughing with joy.
Around this time, Nancy penned this note to Paul Pribbenow, now president of Augsberg College.
“I look forward to finding new ways to be useful to this community and the world around us. For the immediate future, I’m eager to find out what life is like without the constant pressure of deadlines, early rising, and persistent time management. My sewing machine and my creative juices are calling, eager to be turned loose on the fiber art world!”
“And so she did,” Paul writes. “Nancy found her calling in its most expansive sense, which remains a gift to all of us.”
Our friend leaves a rich legacy for this place, and for each of us individually.
For me it comes down to one small but life-affirming gesture.
For a few years at Wabash, Nancy and I both worked in Hays Hall. On those rare occasions when she went home before me, sometimes she’d climb the steps to stop by my office to talk for a second. But always, without fail—she would call up the stairs on her way out: “Good night, Steve. Don’t work too late.”
A simple farewell.
But at the end of a long day—and coming from someone who so believed in this place—it was both affirmation and blessing.
I felt cared about beyond our common work—a shared friendship beyond collegiality—a person more valued than the mission.
That was the way Nancy saw Wabash. Saw Crawfordsville. Saw each of us. The way of seeing she lived out in the world, where she raised so much money and engendered such respect for Wabash and this town.
There is no consolation for losing her now.
But I hope and believe we remember her well, and get to carry something of her into the future, every moment we, too, embrace and live out that vision.
And in the image I carry with me, I see her laughing with joy.
Stitching Love Into Ordinary Things
by Rev. John Van Nuys ’83
Isaiah 46:4 Even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.
Luke 12:48 From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.
When I was a boy, our family went west one summer, and one of the places we stopped was Columbia, Missouri to see the Harry Truman Presidential Library. As a kid, I thought seeing a replica of the Oval Office was pretty cool. As a farm boy, one thing, though, that I simply could not understand at the Truman Library was all the framed needlework. There were intricate, beautiful designs painstakingly put in place, one stitch at a time. That I could understand. What I could not fathom was why such art was put on burlap bags. We had bags like that on our farm; bags filled with grain to feed our cattle and hogs. The bags given to Truman looked exactly the same, but it turned out that those bags had been filled with grain to feed people.
After World War II, when Europe was destroyed and starving, the United States did what Winston Churchill called “the most unsordid act in all of human history”: The U.S. helped rebuild Europe through the Marshall Plan. Part of that plan was to feed those who were hungry — allies and former enemies alike — through grain shipments. Thankful European women, grateful that those gain bags fed their families, took those ordinary burlap sacks and turned them into something extraordinary: They spent weeks and months stitching gorgeous landscapes and scenes from medieval tapestry onto those cloth sacks, which eventually made their way to the White House to thank President Truman and the American people for all they had done for them.
Faithfully stitching thanks and devotion — love, really — into ordinary things: That is what Nancy did — not only into the quilts she made, but also into the lives and institutions and communities she served and loved. Nancy’s friendship, care, devotion, and love stitched all of us together into the tapestry of her family, colleagues, neighbors, co-workers, church family, and friends — all of us who are gathered here today to mourn her death, yes, but also to give thanks to God for Nancy’s life: A good life; well-lived with deep purpose, gladness, and joy.
The novelist Barbara Kingsolver once said: “The happiest people in this life have a purpose. Like a sweater or a crescent wrench, they have a job to do and they live their lives doing it well.”
Nancy chose the two scriptures I ready you. Nothing flowery. Nothing fancy. Just deep truths; blueprint building lines on which to construct a sturdy, serviceable life: From Isaiah: God created you. God will carry you. God will be with you — through it all — from your first baby steps until you are gray; until you breathe your last: I will be with you. And even in death, I will bear you to myself for you to live.
Given that promise; given that God has given us his all, I think Nancy’s take on the companion passage from Luke was this: We need to live giving God our all, which is what Nancy did at this college and for this community and with her church and for us all. Nancy lived out her faith by sharing herself; by pouring herself out in love. And by doing that fearlessly and faithfully, Nancy shows us how to we should live as well.
Quilting — I learned from Wikipedia — is simply putting two pieces of fabric together. Oftentimes, it is three: the backing, the foundation which holds it all together; the batting, the middle part adds warmth; and the top layer of pieces, laid out and sewn in place so that a pattern emerges.
Nancy’s faithful, good life consisted of her actions uniting her deep faith in the God who is the foundation of life; who holds it and us all together — Nancy took that foundation and then added her love. She added her warmth, purpose, and blessing. The rabbinical scholar Abraham Heschel said: “The person who loves brings God and the world together.” Nancy’s love did that in all the pieces of Nancy’s work; for all the persons for whom she cared; for this college, her church, and our community. Nancy’s dedication and faithfulness put all of those elements together in order to bless them; to bless us through beautiful design of her life, which was patterned on God’s love for us all.
Certainly, all the good works Nancy did continue and the blessings she gave us remain with us. Not for us to keep, but for us to share. Nancy’s example; her path; her pattern for living is one I would commend to you if you are at sixes and sevens trying to piece together all the disparate parts of your life.
If you, like Nancy, will trust that God will make the way as you make the effort; if you — like her — keep putting things together in love, then you can trust that that sturdy design will be sufficient for your work to be meaningful; for your days to blessed; and for your life to be good.
Like her good friend Bill Placher, Nancy’s life was cut short. Like her beloved son Chris, Nancy had more life to live. I do not know why bad things happen to good people. Like Garrison Keillor once said: “In the end, we do not have answers. We only have stories.”
We have our stories — and we have God’s story. The story of the God-Man Jesus, who also died before his time — and who rose that first, glad Easter morning so that we, too, may rise and live in the love of God which has no end.
We can trust that Nancy, who was too soon torn away from us, has been lovingly added by our Savior to God’s Easter tapestry of life. We can trust that Nancy’s story and Chris’s story and our story will all be pieced together; made whole and right and beautiful in God’s peaceable kingdom of light and life and love.
So, as you grieve, hold onto God’s promise of life. And as you live, hold on to Nancy’s purpose to bless. Look toward and life unto the God who loves you; who will carry you all the way. And, like Nancy, live your life fully in love. As you do, I am confident that the One who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6). Like Nancy, you, too, will be a new creation. You, too, shall live.
Nancy Doemel and Community Service
by Sheridan Hadley
If Bill had asked me to speak of my close friendship with Nancy, I am not sure I could have gotten through that, but, he asked me to talk about Nancy’s community service. And that is easy. Strangely, I wrote many of these remarks June 6. Nearly two weeks before Nancy’s death.
Because, on Tuesday June 7 Nancy was to receive the very prestigious Susie Hazelett Award for Leadership in Grantsmaking from the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance. She was nominated by the Montgomery County Community Foundation and was scheduled to receive this award at the annual conference luncheon in Indianapolis. Several of us and Nancy’s family were going to attend with her. However, on the weekend before, Bill called Kelly Taylor to tell her Nancy had not been feeling well after her extensive and wonderful presentation at the Foundation’s annual meeting where she had given the 25 year history of the Foundation. She just didn’t feel well enough to attend the award luncheon.
We were very disappointed that Nancy could not accept the award herself, but Kelly asked me, as a Board member and good friend, if I would just accept the award for her. I was honored, but not knowing exactly what that would mean I decided I had better have a few words to say about Nancy so that those in attendance would have an idea of just who this amazing woman was. However, when we got there the organizer indicated time was short so I only mentioned a couple of Nancy’s accomplishments. Today, sadly, Bill has given me an opportunity to do better.
I know you all know Nancy in many different contexts, as mentioned today. And I am confident that EACH of you who works in nonprofits as volunteers or professionals in Montgomery County and Crawfordsville DO know Nancy as the quintessential community worker who used her talents, skills, and hard work for the betterment of the community.
Nancy honed her skills in grant writing for thirty years at Wabash, so during her time there, and especially after she retired, Nancy was in demand to help community organizations in their quests for operating funds, new and ongoing programs, and building needs. Her high standards, creativity, organization skills, and giving spirit made her approachable and successful.
Twenty-five years ago when leaders in the community wanted to use the Eli Lilly initiative to begin a community foundation they said, “We can do this. We know Nancy Doemel.” Nancy became a “founding Mother” and our Foundation director, Kelly Taylor still called on her many times for her wisdom and advice. The Foundation also established the Nancy Doemel Library with her many books on grants making, board development, and community involvement available to all those interested.
When Kitty Haffner, a Foundation board member, had an interest in starting a women’s giving circle she said, “We can do this. Call Nancy Doemel.” And with the enthusiasm from several additional women, our Women’s Legacy Fund was begun. Nancy served as president of that board for several years.
When Bill, local medical professionals, and other concerned citizens wanted to raise money for a neighborhood free clinic, they said, “We can do this. We are sure Nancy will help.” The Mary Ludwig Free Clinic is in its fourth year providing medical and dental needs for our uninsured neighbors.
When small town Darlington wanted to renovate its dilapidated armory for a community center, someone said, “Let’s ask Nancy Doemel to help us with grantwriting.” And, their project took off.
When the Montgomery County Leadership Academy wanted someone to instruct the students in board development and fundraising, the director said, “I will call Nancy Doemel.” Nancy took great pleasure in teaching others and watching them succeed.
Twice, in the last twenty years Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church needed major renovation to save the 150 year old building, and the people said, “There is only one person who can see us through this and she is in our congregation! Call Nancy.” Nearly half a million dollars was raised.
And then there is the League of Women Voters. Nancy was a strong leader in the League filling many roles over the years. She believed in the importance of citizen participation in a successful democracy. Most recently she served as chair of the Economic Health committee. For five years Nancy led a strong committee in learning about various community issues from tourism to workforce, from redevelopment to small town revitalization, from Ivy Tech to housing, from needs of those with handicaps to those who are homeless. She interviewed many and delegated to others on the committee research on economic growth and quality of life in our community. She was a great listener and convener –always interested in bringing together those who knew the problem with those potential problem solvers.
I am not going to pretend that I have named all of Nancy’s accomplishments. Unfortunately, when there are future jobs to be done we can no longer say, “Call Nancy.” However, she provided us with an amazing role model. One of hard work, dedication, organization, perseverance, and a positive spirit which will guide us as we try to fill this void and pursue our common passion to make Crawfordsville/Montgomery County the best place it can be. She made all of us better people and better servants to our community. We can do this work because “we know Nancy Doemel.”
Nancy and Friendship
by Judy Kieffer, Carole Young, and Michelle Flechtner
Carole, Michelle and I were friends with Nancy in Junior High and High School, while growing up in Tiffin, Ohio. and that friendship has continued through the years. And we welcome being here to celebrate the wonderful person and friend that she was.
I always thought she was the smartest person in our high school class. And she did so much for our class. She was: on the staff for the Library and our class newspaper in which she wrote an article about our fun times at Camp Pittenger. She was in Student Council, the Honor Society, the Dramatic Club, the Latin Club, the Choir, the Pep Squad, an editor of our 1963 Blue and Gold yearbook, and on and on. And she received many awards including the prestigious National Machinery Scholarship. Obviously, she was very impressive and productive even way back then.
I’ve always loved animals and have had 8 cats. In 2002 one of my cats named Willie died. And Nancy surprised me, when the four of us got together a few month later, with this quilt that has 25 cats on it that she made in honor of Willie. I love it and have it hung on the wall where I do my daily weight lifting and physical exercises. And it’s where I always think of Nancy and how much I valued the wonderful person and friend she was. And that will continue forever.
I met Nancy 58 years ago in the 7th grade. Since the four of us Nancy, Judy, Carole and I were at the end of the alphabet, think we all met in Mr Roe’s homeroom. Guess we naturally gravitated together and became a quartet! Not just a quartet of friends, but an actual singing quartet called the Blue Notes! Thinking back this is so funny because Nancy was the only one who had any musical ability. Some times she sang and carried us, and other times she was our accompanist on the piano.
It always amazed me in high school that Nancy could have close friendships with boys with no romantic attachment. Fast forward to college..Easter weekend of our sophomore year quite a few of the high school friends were home. Nancy had a good friend that I knew but not very well. She asked me to go bowling with a group and be Denny Flechtner’s date. Denny and I will be married 50 years August 27! Probably never would have happened without Nancy’s matchmaking,
As years went by the four of us kept in contact at Christmas and birthdays. We were all starting careers and raising small children in 3 different states. Not until the advent of email did we really reconnect. We started going on just girls’ weekends once a year. Was so excited to find out Nancy was a quilter because I am also. She put me to shame. On our weekends Nancy would lug suitcases of fabric and quilts to share with us and explain the techniques that she was using. She was so prolific and a quilt artist not just a quilter.
Nancy never met a person she couldn’t be a friend with, a quilt she couldn’t make, or a project that she couldn’t complete exceptionally. I miss her.
Nancy was a match-maker for me, also. The summer before our Junior Year in high school, Nancy’s family had a convertible. One of the guys in our class had been in a motor scooter accident and was on crutches. Nancy took we girlfriends for a ride in the convertible (very impressive when we were in high school!), and we picked up Tom Young, with his crutches, and took him for a drive. Tom and I will celebrate 50 years together next year. Nancy helped me find the love of my life.
We have been enjoying our High School Girlfriends’ Weekends for about the past 12 years (maybe longer, we’re not sure!). Through email, we could actually enjoy the current events in each other’s lives, instead of just sending cards. We decided that we should meet for an entire weekend each year. For the first four years, we met at each of our homes, so that we could get reacquainted and experience how our best high school friends lived. Nancy’s house was the first one we visited. I have three distinct memories of our weekend at Nancy and Bill’s home.
First, Bill grilled us fabulous salmon for dinner after our arrival. We all got that recipe!
Secondly, Nancy proudly took us to Wabash. She showed us her office, and introduced us to her co-workers. Wabash was an integral part of Nancy’s life. I loved seeing where Nancy worked.
The third memory I have of our visit to Nancy and Bill’s home, was Nancy’s quilt room. I was awed and amazed. I could not believe all of the material and organization in that room!
After the first four years of visiting each other’s homes (Judy lives in Maryland, and Mike and I live in Ohio), we branched out and elected to meet in different places. We have enjoyed Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Amish country in Ohio, Charleston South Carolina, and Salem, Indiana.
During our Girls Weekends, Nancy always showed us her latest quilt projects, and there was always a movie that Nancy would have us attend. She loved her movies! We yakked, ate, toured, watched movies, and enjoyed our best High School Girlfriends’ company. Nancy was a wonderful friend, the glue that bonded the four of us together. We miss our friend.
Nancy and Quilting
by Kay Kingsley
Quilting is the act of sewing together, usually three layers: a top, batting, and a back. Many of us are “toppers” and like to have someone else quilt for us. Before I share my memories about Nancy, I would like to acknowledge Paul Wycoff and his wife, Sally, who are here today. Since 2004, Paul has beautifully quilted Nancy’s quilts on his computer generated long arm machine.
When Nancy began to show up regularly in my classes at the quilt shop in Indianapolis, I asked her what brought her to quilting. Her boss told her to get a hobby because she was working too much. Who knew quilting would become one of her passions.
Piecing a quilt top involves cutting up many different fabrics into small pieces, shuffling those pieces around, and then sewing them back together. Shuffling the pieces offers opportunity for artistic expression.
In the early days, Nancy struggled with accuracy. Getting all of those little pieces to go back together just right is a challenge for anyone. Tension grew for both of us as I tried to encourage her in that effort. One day she showed me a piece that was particularly whopper-jawed and wanted to know how to fix it. I froze for a moment and then mustered the courage to finally say, “Start over and work on accurate seam allowances.” One eye brow went up and she gave me the stink-eye. None of use likes to be told to start over. Of course, the accuracy greatly improved in time. There is a learning curve.
In 2005 I was invited to give a presentation to the Crawfordsville Quilt Guild and Nancy invited me to stop by the house on my way there. Being in her home was magical. There were small quilts dancing on the walls everywhere. They were not perfectly square or rectangular. I learned something very important that day. Perfection in matching those seams was not important to her. What WAS important to her was color, design, and the spirit of each quilt. It made me think of Picasso, Cezanne, and Gauguin turning away from the tradition of representational painting. Their images were fractured compared to previous standards. Nancy’s quilts at that time had that same feel. She even showed me her clothes closet, which showed me how important color was to her.
Given my art background, I especially enjoyed infusing design concepts when appropriate. Rather than working from a specific pattern with instructions, we would work on a design wall.
Working vertically on flannel, which the fabric sticks to, allows you to stand back from your work and make artistic decisions. Here Nancy excelled. An over-achiever, she would return to class with multiple projects as well as her portable folding design wall covered with hours of thoughtful fabric placement. She often pressed me to tell her what I was thinking when I began to move pieces around. I have never had a more eager, doggedly determined student. As she gained confidence, she really flew. She eventually evolved to making what we call “modern” quilts.
There is a common affliction among quilters to collect A LOT of fabric. While we do have left-over fabric from previous projects that we can use for scrap quilts, we sometimes say that we “purchase” our “scraps” at quilt shops. We also collect books, magazines, tools, etc.
Walking into a quilt store is very stimulating to a quilter; all that color and pattern along with many sample quilts to entice us to make yet another quilt. Some quilters say that possession is ninety per-cent of the game. We love our fabric! Where does it say that it has to be used up? So, we collect. I had a student that often referred to her fabric stash as The Warehouse.
I have heard of quilters making check book entries that say Kroger’s instead of the name of the shop. There is a guilt factor at play.
Among quilters there is an often heard expression that the one who has the most in the end wins
Nancy may be that winner. There was a flurry of activity at Bill’s house the last week in June. Quilters and friends showed up to pack up Nancy’s quilt stash for an eventual sale (actually two sales), the proceeds of which will benefit The Women’s Legacy Fund, which Nancy founded, as well as the local quilt guild. We hope to do Nancy proud with this sale. She would be happy to know that her stash of fabric and tools will be passed along to other quilters.
And by the way, Nancy, I have met a lot of very nice people working on your stash sale.
Having Nancy’s friendship and being part of her early artistic journey has been such a joy! She has been one of my greatest rewards for my teaching efforts.
Nice things in life: B.D. cards, thank you notes in appreciation, turtle hospital.
I have a visual image of Nancy smiling through a flutter of her quilts as she leaves us in a blaze of color.
A Life Well Lived!