Nancy Joan – In Memoriam


Nancy Joan – In Memoriam

The family called her Nickie. Nancy Joan “Nickie” is the little beauty on the right in the old grainy photo. The little beauty on the left is now my wife, Julie Anne. The handsome fellow in the picture is the father and my sorely missed dear friend and bridge partner.

Nickie, five, and her older sister, Julie Anne, seven, were happy children, always smiling their exquisite smiles and playing with their animals and toys. There were good family genes and a loving environment. The two girls were inseparable and the delights of their doting parents. Nickie’s lovely golden hair and Julie’s brown tresses framed angelic faces devoid of mischief and filled with innocence and wonder. Nickie and Julie were truly the children of God. ‘Old Mike’, a French Briard, and ‘Baby Cat’, a Siamese cat, were always with the girls, and woe be to anyone who approached the girls in a threatening manner.

The family lived on Portland Street in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. Bob, the father (in the photo), was an accountant, ably assisted by Isabel, the mother, and he loved his work and performed most of the tedious activities from his home office. Bob was a man of easy temperament who forgave debt of some people for whom he prepared tax statements – not always condoned by Isabel. Isabel was a practical woman and also easily swayed. It was this kind woman with some clairvoyance that Nickie and Julie Anne most clearly mirrored.

All in all, there was the joy of family if not so much money and their emotions were always on an even keel. There was love and kindness in abundance.

There came the sunny Phoenix day when Nickie was to be taken to the dentist. Julie Anne was sick that day with what the family feared might be Valley Fever so she would not be going with her father and Nickie. It was warm and the palm trees stood grand and proud there along the irrigated green grasses and desert. Nickie feared not the dentist visit and joyfully leaned against her father’s right side with her coloring book on her lap. Back in those early days there were no child seats or restraints, and Nickie sat coloring a picture with that delicate angel smile, humming to herself as she exchanged one crayon for another. When she finished her coloring of the picture her smile widened as she showed it to her father… In that split second when Bob looked briefly down at the coloring page, a car sped out into the street, running a stop sign, and t-boned the car on Nickie’s side.

Nickie died instantly. Bob received a severe head injury from which he almost died. The drunk driver who caused the accident was not injured and would only get his license suspended for six months. At the accident scene, the drunk driver was heard to comment: “That makes one less brat in the world.”

Bob recovered from his head injury but would never be able to forgive himself for Nickie’s death. The family would never be the same. Julie Anne mourned heavily her sister’s death but would never lose her angelic nature and that bit of extra wiring adopted from her mother, at times sensing events before they happened. Another child was adopted to hopefully ease some pains, but Bob would carry his devastation for a lifetime. There would come an eventual divorce and added sadness.

Years later, given only a limited time to live because of an anomalous infection, the mother would take a tramp steamer to many stops around the world, go on safari, and fulfill some dreams she always carried within her…her daughter, Julie Anne, now grown, would suggest this adventure to her mother. As fate would have it, Isabel lived well past the predicted time of her death. She is buried in Zimbabwe (once, Rhodesia). Her ex-husband Bob would die years later, his ashes spilled from their urn on The Sea of Cortez in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, a fishing village he loved as a second home.

Occasionally, I look at the old photo albums and listen to the animal stories and fun childhood times of my good wife, Julie Anne. I can attest without equivocation that this lady is the most calming, caring, and angelic person I have ever known. Although Nickie (Nancy Joan) left Julie Anne at an early age, she is always there in the misty fringes of time, her blond curls and beaming smile almost visible in my wife’s eyes. My partner for life has never lost that wondrous uplifting gift of life and child-like quality she shared so many years ago with Nickie.

So, here’s to you, Nancy Joan, sweet Nickie, and to you, Isabel and Bob, with a heart full of thanks for the beautiful years I have shared with a devoted sister and daughter.

Billy Ray Chitwood – April 25, 2014 (@brchitwood) (IAN website with my books)

Please leave a comment if so inclined. Best wishes.

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14 thoughts on “Nancy Joan – In Memoriam

  1. This will be the most touching thing I read today. So well written, Billy Ray, you know how to draw the heartstrings. I’m happy to know more about Julie Anne and how she came to be in this world. I’m sure “Nickie” would be smiling too.


  2. That was very sad, Billy Ray, but beautifully told. The characters were very real, and, though you obviously knew your wife’s parents, you could not have known her sister. Congratulations on a very thought-provoking piece of prose.


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