Nancy Clark Curtin was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1935. Nancy was the oldest of Horace and Catherine Clark’s five children. She grew up in New Jersey as the responsible, stylish and sometimes bossy big sister to Jerry, Gail, Paul, and Kathleen. Nancy graduated at the top of her class at Trenton Central High School and attended Wellesley College, from which she graduated in 1957. Her time there was important in many ways – providing her an opportunity to nourish her intellect, make lifelong friends, establish a
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connection to Boston that later would become her home, and, most importantly, meet the love of her life, Jack Curtin. He was attending Harvard Business School, and mutual friends had the great wisdom to anticipate their compatibility and made the introduction that changed lives. Their courtship in Boston was brief, but blessedly they reconnected in 1959. Jack was working in the oilfields in Casper, Wyoming and, while socializing with friends one night way out west, was inspired to call Nancy, who by then had graduated college and was working at MIT in Boston. He convinced her to meet him in Winnetka, Illinois at his Aunt Peggy Dunne’s house,
splitting the distance between Boston and Casper. The fact that Nancy, who was measured and moderate in all things and not prone to spontaneity, agreed to travel to meet Jack is a testament to the connection they had made on those few dates nearly two years earlier. They met at Aunt Peggy’s on Holy Thursday, and on Easter Sunday, Nancy called home to tell her parents they were engaged. Sixty years ago this month, on July 8,1959, Nancy and Jack were married in Trenton, New Jersey. Nancy moved with Jack to Casper, Wyoming where the east coast girl got a taste of rodeos and big sky. She was intrigued by the life out there -- though it wouldn’t have been her first choice -- but any place with Jack was now her home. She wrote long letters to her family telling them how happy she was with Jack, and so began their beautiful love story.
Nancy supported Jack as he took new jobs and moved new places, starting with a move from Wyoming to Tulsa, Oklahoma, which had been Jack’s childhood home. Nancy gave birth to two girls in Tulsa, and then the young family made a couple of brief moves before settling in Houston, Texas for Jack’s growing career. Their son was born in Houston, and the Curtins were there to stay.
Dad worked long days and travelled often, though never far or for very long. Mom took care of the three of us and was as devoted as any wife or mother could be. People recognized her station wagon everywhere because she was always at school or performances or sports or wherever her children were. She was that mom whom everyone admired and enjoyed. Mom helped with homework and art projects, played dolls and sewed their clothes, zoomed cars and played gas station, and read us stories at bedtime. She literally did it all in a home as beautiful as she could make it at any given time, with everything in its place just so. But with all the time she devoted to the growth and care for her children, Mom always managed to stop at the end of
the day to comb her hair and put on her signature lipstick before Dad came home from work. She loved her Jack and never relaxed her effort to look her best. From a young age, Mom had her own sense of style. She had a keen eye and a love for beauty in all things, and fashion was certainly one of them. To this day, she has saved the receipts for her wedding dress, bridesmaid dresses, and her trousseau. She was intentional, exacting, and organized and loved her clothes.
But do not let these comments make you think that Mom was vain or simple – quite the contrary. Mom had a strong intellect, which she fed in many ways. She was a perpetual student of all things and read constantly, taking notes in the margin and asking questions. As with everything in her life, her reading and studying were intentional. Mom lived proactively, not passively. There was nothing accidental or lazy or unplanned in how Mom lived. She had her ideas of the right way to do things – whether small things like setting the table, folding a napkin, deadheading a flower, or dressing one’s self, or big things like raising children, loving faithfully and completely, serving the community, or honoring God.
While she raised her children and made our home special, Mom was always looking outward at the same time and serving others. She volunteered countless hours and served in many leadership roles for several organizations in Houston, including the Junior League, the Garden Club of Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, St. John’s School, the Shepherd Society at Rice University, the Armand Bayou Committee, the Museum of Natural Science, and the Houston Ballet Guild. Mom was a quiet and hard worker, and these organizations were blessed by her service. So often she was the one to serve as treasurer or secretary – detail-oriented jobs that she was well-suited for and big-hearted enough to agree to do.
With her children grown and living away and facing a new phase in her life, Mom returned to school to get her law degree. Not surprisingly, she was a dedicated student and dove into her studies. We teased her that when she got home from school, she didn’t waste time or watch television or snack like any normal student. Instead, she sat down at a desk and began reading cases, highlighting and outlining like the law student of a professor’s dreams. She graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1989, just in time for the next phase of hers and Jack’s life as they returned to Boston where they had first met. Dad had a job offer and presented Mom with the opportunity to return to the east coast. He said she jumped at the chance, so off they went, settling in Beacon Hill, which couldn’t have made Mom happier. Dad, the Okie, found it all a bit odd at first but knew his bride was thrilled. Having passed the Texas Bar and then the Massachusetts Bar, Mom wanted to use her law degree and start a career. She got a job at the Conservation Law Foundation and really enjoyed working with such bright people who were making a difference. At the same time, she went to work establishing a life in Boston and engaging in the community. Again, never waiting for life to come to her, Mom made connections and established herself. Eventually, she figured out that hers and Jack’s lives
would be richer if she spent more time in the community than in the office, so she left her brief law career and focused on her successful living career. She made many strong friendships and enjoyed her book club and her conversation group, Les Miz. She was an active volunteer at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Beacon Hill Civic Association, the Beacon Hill Garden Club, Beacon Hill Seminars, and the Fragment Society. Again, she spent countless hours and worked diligently to serve.
While she was known for her station wagon in Houston as she raised her children there, in Boston, she was known for her purposeful stride through Beacon Hill and nearby areas. Everyone recognized Mom for her perfectly coiffed hair and intentional gait. But she was also known for her love for her grandchildren. Nothing made Mom happier than being a grandmother, and she doted on her seven grandchildren. Just as she had sat on the floor with her own children to play, she did so with her grandchildren, telling them stories and passing on to them her prized traditions and particular way of doing things.
She spent time with her grandchildren not only in Boston, but also in the special town of Castine, Maine, which had become a second home to the Curtins. Before the opportunity to move to Boston, Dad offered her an escape from the Houston heat and humidity to spend summers in Maine. They began their time in Castine in 1979, planting strong roots in the community and making wonderful friends. Mom loved having her children and grandchildren in Castine and took every opportunity she could to be with them there. Mom and Dad have
created a home in Castine for all of us to enjoy, and we will do our best to honor their legacy there and to keep their house just right.
Sadly, as Dad became ill with Alzheimer’s, so did Mom. Perhaps not surprisingly, their journeys from this earth were as connected as their lives here. As cruel as the disease is to its victims and their families, we were grateful for the fact that Mom and Dad eventually were protected from watching each other suffer. Dad was loved and cared for at the Newton Wellesley Center for Alzheimer’s while Mom was loved and cared for at Avita of Needham and by the loveliest women from Abundant Home Health Care. Seeing our parents apart in their final years was painful, but they now are reunited. Blessedly, Mom seemed to understand Dad’s death just two months ago on May 21, 2019 but was too ill to be tortured by the knowledge of his passing. God mercifully granted her enough awareness to know where to find Dad but not enough to feel the pain of his loss. But she had been without him for too long and joined him on July 22, 2019. The most beautiful sunset ever showed Mom the way home, and their love story continues into eternity. Jack and Nancy are holding hands forever, just as they did here for nearly 60 years.
Nancy leaves behind her adoring children, Maura Lundie with her husband Bruce, Maggie Begley with her husband Peter, and John Curtin with his wife Claire. Nancy’s grandchildren – Ainsley and Nate Lundie; Clark, Carter, and Colton Begley; and Jack and Charlotte Curtin – loved their Nanny and will honor her legacy as they carry on her traditions and use her many teachings. Nancy is survived by her sister, Kathleen Clark and wonderful nieces, nephews and in-laws of the Clark family. Nancy’s parents, Horace and Kitty, lived long, full lives, as did her brother Paul and sister Gail, but her brother Jerry died far too young.
There will be a funeral Mass for Nancy at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, 2019 at Our Lady of Holy Hope in her beloved Castine, Maine. Afterwards, Nancy and Jack will be buried together in the Castine Cemetery. Friends and family are invited to celebrate the special lives and wonderful love story of Nancy and Jack at a party on the lawn at Fort Madison from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. that Saturday evening. Nancy’s children will find a date in the early fall for a memorial in Boston to gather with family and friends there. For those wishing, remembrances may be sent to The Fragment Society, Linda Leahy,Treasurer, 60 Denny Road, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, Beacon Hill Seminars, 121 Mt.Vernon Street, Boston, MA 02108 (https://www.beaconhillseminars.org), or to the organization of your choice.