Over 300 crammed into the simple white room at the club at the Cape May, NJ, marina to say their final goodbyes to 54-year-old Nancy Bacher Long, who died four months after a bicycle accident one mile from her home.
The line of friends, relatives and former employees waiting to give their condolences to Nancy’s husband, two adult children and remaining sister and brother snaked outside the front door and over the lawn in this small town located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey.
Anyone who came into contact with vibrant Nancy loved her. A mother, aunt, sister, daughter-in-law, wife, community leader and successful public relations executive, she was as passionate about bringing her family together every Thanksgiving as she was about charity work, doing right by her company’s clients and, of course, her childhood sweetheart, husband Andy. Nancy was a doer like few people are.
“Curiosity, passion, determination — and a sense of fun infused everything she did. Nancy thought — no, Nancy believed — that most anything was possible. The glass wasn’t half empty, and it wasn’t even half full. As far as Nancy was concerned, it was filled to the brim — all you had to do was drink from it,” said her sister Mary Ann, who also is one of my most cherished friends.
One employee after another who Nancy had mentored during her wonderful career “came up to me to tell me what she had done for them,” Mary Ann related. “My former employees would come to make sure I was gone,” she joked. “So would mine,” I quickly said.
Sadly, and ironically, Nancy and Mary Ann’s mother also died when she was 54 and Nancy was 19. The youngest of three (she and Mary Ann also have a brother), Nancy “became the keystone that supported our growing family when we lost our dad less than seven years after our mom,” Mary Ann said in her eulogy. “Along with Andy, she hosted Thanksgivings, Christmases, New Years Eves, Fourth of Julys, pig roasts, birthdays and other celebrations—with grace, style and ease. She made sure that we remained a family.”
Nancy went after every mission with purpose and humor, including getting to first base with Andy, who she had her eye on all through their college years at separate universities. Even Andy’s eighty-plus-year-old mother loved Nancy from day one, an emotion mothers-in-law don’t often feel. She survives her daughter-in-law.
I am glad I had the chance to get to know Nancy a bit when she helped me a couple of years ago with a project I was beginning at FOF. She was gracious and giving. But I felt like I knew her through Mary Ann. Every time she talked about Nancy, it was with unequivocal love and respect. I so admired how Nancy combined her passions for her family with those of her career–and worked at them both successfully.
Nancy’s life was tragically cut short. But the life she lived was truly a life well led. She also had the sense to stop and smell the roses, while many never even see the roses in the first place.
Originally, Andy was going to row out and disperse Nancy’s ashes in the bay, but he decided he didn’t need an audience to do that, Mary Ann told me. He was right, but picturing him doing that alone is heart wrenching.