Nanci Dale Millin was born on November 14, 1966. In her time she was a daughter, sister, aunt, and granddaughter. She had endless circles of friends, an infectious laugh, achieved great success in her work, and took pride in owning and making a home of her own. Her life was short but there was plenty of living within it.
My mother remembers how when Nanci was two years old she attempted to climb the steps of our home in Amherst, Massachusetts. As my mom stood by Nanci’s side, my sister awkwardly hoisted her short stubby leg up to the first step and reached for the railing with one hand. Instinctively, mom reached out to lend a helping hand. In true Nanci fashion she pulled her hand back and said, “I do it my big-self.” That determination to climb and conquer any challenge before her would go on to serve my sister well, and it helped define who she was and who she would become. Nanci was wired to be strong.
Now most of you know and remember Nanci as the pretty, Pottery Barn styling, lip-gloss loving adult who loved the fine and the fancy things in life. Well I can assure you she was not always so put together - have you not seen the old photos of her with the gap between her front teeth? Nanci was not always so polished.
Our family moved to the small town of Rowley, Massachusetts in the early 1970’s, when Nanci was just four. My parents taught us to live within our means and to appreciate what we had. Mom and Dad have always had strong values and my sisters and I were taught to treat others as we would want to be treated; to accept and appreciate those who are different; to laugh; to love; and to enjoy family and friends.
These are the fundamental pillars that supported Nanci’s outlook on life and influenced her perception of - and interaction with - the world around her. I am certain that the experiences Nanci had growing up, the small town values and sense of community, combined with the principles my parents taught us are what led to her settling down in a village like Wakefield, RI.
Right about the time she turned twelve, Nanci announced that she was replacing the “Y” at the end of “Nancy” with an “I.” Nobody can recall the exact reason she did it but I look back and like to think that the “I” stood for Independence.
For Nanci, every day was Independence Day.
We moved to Tewksbury, Massachusetts in 1980 and Nanci’s drive towards independence continued. She was her confident-self and she was popular for it. Her first job was in a nursing home at the age of fifteen, where she started out as a kitchen helper but she quickly befriended the residents and became a care-giver; feeding them, keeping them company, and making them feel like they had a friend - a familiar theme throughout Nanci’s life.
Another story my mother enjoys telling is of the time when Nanci said she wanted to become a nun. Not exactly “nun material” my surprised mother asked what logic lay behind that thinking and Nanci replied, “Because I look so good in black.” We all know she had a sense of style and self-worth and that the standards she set for herself and others were high. And like all teenagers, her quest for independence sometimes led to conflict at home and when Nanci was, “in a mood” we all held our breath until the storm blew over.
Mom and Dad, you let Nanci be herself, and you helped Nanci help herself, by giving her all the tools she needed to find the happiness, success, and love she received. You did a great job.
When she left home for the University of Rhode Island in 1984 she left for good. She was finally free - to become and do whatever she wanted. Nanci spent her summers in Rhode Island, working and enjoying her friends, her youth, the beaches, as well as her expanding independence and responsibility. She worked hard, but Block Island, Casey’s, the Coast Guard House, and Charley O’s were the places she spent her time laughing, dancing, and living life to the fullest with her friends.Upon graduation Nanci made South County her home and eventually found her way to Bay Realty in December of 1990.
Jay Readyhough, Bay’s founder and President describes Nanci as, "admired and respected by all of us at the office, and within the industry, for her work ethic, professionalism, and integrity. In her twenty one years at Bay she was happy to share her knowledge and experience with others in the business, as well as with her clients and customers. She was consistently helping others; she was caring, compassionate, and unselfish, and always approached people and situations with humor and kindness.”
The people of Bay were her friends and family...she loved you all.
Simply put, Nanci was great at her job and was loved, valued, and admired by her clients and co-workers. She did not view the sale of a house as a transaction but rather as the realization of her client’s dream – and she kept many clients as friends long after their papers were passed. Beneath the picture on her business card was a slogan that read, “Heading for Home.” Helping people find their perfect home became her mission and passion, and more often than most she did bring them home.
Nanci landed and set her roots in Wakefield but by no means did she settle down. She traveled with Debbie and me on our family vacations to Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, and Arizona. She visited my sister Kim in San Francisco, and traveled to concerts with Debbie in Arizona and Boston. She also took trips with her friends to Florida, New York, Italy, Hawaii, and beyond; and she has the meticulously organized and notated photo albums to prove it.Nanci also had a social life comprised of an endless circle of friends from all different walks of life. My sister Kim remembers that despite living far away from each other for most of their lives, when they did get together it was as if they were never apart – the same holds true for all who knew her.
Nanci was a gourmet cook, she hosted parties and entertained in her house on Winter Street – a house that she tastefully renovated and decorated so that it reflected her sense of style, class, and simple elegance. Her famous ornament exchange parties provided her guests with lots of laughs, memories, and a collection of over-the-top ornaments. Nanci cherished her lunch dates with our grandmother Madeline at Twin Oaks in Cranston, and she loved her vast and varied music collection; but she loved no artist more than James Taylor – her self-proclaimed “Bald-Headed God.”
My sister enjoyed being around all children and making them feel special. Caroline and Danny – Auntie loved you with all her heart. She took such pleasure in finding special gifts for you, and loved being there for all the important moments in your life –and doling out dollar bills every time you said, “Auntie is the Queen.” Auntie always wanted to hear what was going on in your lives and your happiness gave her happiness. For me, growing up was not easy; but in Nanci I had an older sister who was kind and encouraging – She forged the trail and I simply followed her lead.
Nanci’s pets…she spoiled them all: Samantha, Teddi, and Annie Grace. She showered them with affection and love… and designer collars.
But even though Nanci was all about perfection, and she often looked and acted the part, she was not perfect. She worked hard to hide a bit of herself from all of us, afraid - I think - that a sign of vulnerability was a sign of weakness. We all knew Nanci’s perfect outside but only caught glimpses of what was really happening on the inside. When she discovered she was sick and realized that she was dying from cancer it rattled Nanci to her core, as it did all of us. But she remained private and reluctant to rely on others, until she was no longer able to manage things herself. Nanci was proud, independent, and determined to live out her life on her terms.
But we should all take comfort in the fact that when Nanci finally did allow some of us in – a very special group of family and friends who cared tirelessly for her in her final months, something wonderful happened. Nanci took a risk and she reaped the reward, the Beautiful Reward that comes when someone opens up and reveals their inner fears: she was showered with the same affection and care that she spent her life giving to others.
Mom and Dad, my sister Kim, my wife Debbie, Jay, Georgina, Dawn, and Elisa – the patience, compassion, time, energy, resources, and love you devoted to Nanci during her final months was incredible and it touched Nanci deeply. To all of you who called, sent cards, emails, notes, and text messages please know that she read every single one and took comfort in your words.
Thank you also to Nanci’s primary doctor and friend, Dr. Serena Sposato, to Dr. Jennifer Gass of Women and Infants Hospital, and to Barbara Allen and Sandy Romano and all the staff of Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island – for recognizing Nanci as a unique individual and for allowing her to preserve the power of her independence and her dignity.
For two months Nanci spent time shuffling between a hospital bed in her den and her bed upstairs. On the day she made the last climb up her steep stairs to her bedroom she was weak, in pain, and only three days away from the end. It hurt to watch her walk and when she reached for the railing with one hand and lifted her leg slowly up to the first step I feared she would lose her balance and fall backwards. I instinctively held my hands behind her and accidently grazed her robe with my fingers. She stiffened her body and said, “No. Let me do it” - just as she had done to my mother over forty years ago.
She was independent to the end.
Cancer is a tough disease, but Nanci gave it a hell of a fight. I want her friends and family to know that when Nanci was at her weakest she was never stronger; when she feared the most she was never braver; when she endured embarrassment she was never more stoic; and when the ugliness of cancer ravaged her body she was never more beautiful.