On a late afternoon last week, after receiving an initial shocking call from ASAI President Emeritus Dick Sneary,and then both of us making a few more calls to her closer friends that evening, ASAI has learned that its long-time, most supportive, non-illustrator member, Nancy Opsata had passed away in early December 2021. I then did some on-line searching and found the following notice about Dear Nancy on her FB page,with this most flattering,insightful photo capturing her wonderful persona; as posted by her Brother Jim, and Sister-In-law Vicki:

 

“It is with great sorrow that our family announces the passing of my sister, Nancy Lee Opsata, on December 3, 2021 in Monterey, California. A service will be held this Saturday, December 11th, at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Monterey at 11:00 a.m, and it will be live-streamed from the church website. We plan to hold a memorial in Olympia at a later time for all her friends and family in Washington.”
Nancy Opsata 1946-2021
https://www.facebook.com/nancy.opsata

 

In finding her site that evening, I posted the following message there, meant to express some of that sense of shared endearment felt by so many ASAI members for Nancy:

 

ASAI Co-Founder Frank M. Costantino:
“Just finding out now, some 4 months later, about Dear Nancy, a most gentle and sharing Soul. She was a member of the ASAI, www.asai.org, though she was not an illustrator; but she attended our annual conferences around the country & overseas, and bonded with & very much enjoyed the company of many member/friends, and developed close & enduring & fun-loving connections with her friends from various parts of this country, Canada, and the world. She was such a very special person…”

 

I quickly received the following FB reply:
“Hi Frank, Thanks for your message. Nancy was my sister-in-law. I know how much she enjoyed ASAI and her friends there. Her loss was a great shock to all of us. We did not realize she was sick, but she had liver disease and was put in hospice two weeks after going into the hospital and died a few days after. She didn’t want anyone to know she was ill, so my husband (her only sibling) and I only found out the day she went into hospice and so no one in the family was even able to speak with her. There was a service for her at St Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Monterey that was video-taped and on You Tube. Her ashes are in Olympia, Washington at our family cabin. Her favorite place. We appreciate your friendship with her.” Take care, Vicki Opsata

 

My response:
“I only saw/read your most helpful message this am; very much appreciated & will share with her ASAI “family” that were really connected with her. My Regrets to Nancy’s brother, you &many others who were also touched by this dear woman & a gentle soul. All the Best.”
After then speaking directly with a few of Nancy’s friends, and in turn exchanging this news with so many other close friends within ASAI, numerous heartfelt comments were written,very quickly exchanged,and forwarded, as below. Nancy had first become an ASAI member in 1999, at our San Francisco AIP 14 Conference, which was near her home in Monterey;and she had been a faithful member over these past twenty-two years. Though her private college prep school in Quito, Ecuador,and her training in three medical institutions as a Psychiatric Nurse did not quite align Nancy with our profession, ASAI was always open for supporters from any other profession. Nancy found out about our work, and was encouraged to keep a sketchbook for her own doodles and drawings; and later she had some lessons in interior design, perspective and watercolors. Nancy also quickly bonded with many of our woman members, such that they shared friendships across the country and the world.She was never one to shirk a good time either. Nancy later served for a term on the Board,and diligently helped edit and re-write the Society’s operational manual, which was sorely needed at that time. She was also the touch point for many members who happened to visit the West Coast;and Nancy always made time for her ASAI colleagues.

 

I mentioned to our Executive Director Tina that ASAI should post our Members’ remembrances of Nancy, to which her many friends have contributed(as you can see below); and which would also allow other members to offer some comments,or to know about this special woman. Though newer members may not have known Nancy, and given the two-year-plus disruption from Covid, the testimonies below may provide a stronger sense of the deep comradery among our members, which has been an earmark benefit of our Society –that friendliness of membership “with meaning that is beyond just being a member” according to Co-Founder Steve Oles. ASAI still encourages new member friendships which will extend well beyond our professional sphere and may indeed last for years.

 

The Messages:

 

ASAI Co-Founder Steve Oles, Santa Fe:
“This brings tears to these old eyes.It’s no exaggeration to claim that I (as a hugely interested party) ‘love’ many of you guys.But Nancy was always my secret heart throb. How could she be otherwise? Gentle, understanding, understated, and quietly friendly by nature—and loyal to ASAI. Quick of wit, fun by inclination—but with an undertone of almost grave seriousness. Trained as a nurse, among the most noble of callings, and totally appropriate to her character.She was almost too good. Certainly too young.A reminder of two things: the fragility of life, and the sweetly positive impact that true kindness can have on the lives of others.Nancy had that impact on mine. I’ll miss her from now on.”

 

(photo w/Nancy from Brisbane AIP 17 conference – Barbara, Liz, Annette Jacoby & Frank)

President Emeritus Jane Grealy, Brisbane AUS:
“Such shocking news. Nancy was truly special and I will try to hold the memory of her gentle words, kindnesses and smiling face. What an example to us all. So sad to hear this and I don’t really want to believe it. I always thought we would see her again.”

 

President Emeritus Barbara Ratner, Atlanta, GA:
“Nancy was proud of her Norwegian heritage, she loved her lakeside cabin and her independence, and she knew how to have fun. She and I shared a small prop plane with open windows, flying along the coast of Australia, the two of us giggling and hanging on.I will miss her.”

 

President Emeritus Gordon Grice, Toronto:
“That is sad news indeed. Nancy was a rare bird: a registered nurse (I believe) who found greater kinship amongst the ASAI misfits. A tragic loss to our organization.”

 

President Emeritus Tom Schaller, New York, NY:
“Oh…So sorry to hear this.It is a loss. Life is fragile indeed.”

 

Hugh Ferriss Memorial Prize Winner, Chris Grubbs, San Francisco CA & Savannah, GA:
“I’ll miss Nancy.”(via London)

 

President Emeritus Bill (& Sandy) Hook, Seattle WA:
“We are so sorry to hear this. We would stay with her at her family’s cabin on Hood Canal near Olympia when she was here in the summer. She didn’t contact us this last time and we assumed she was just busy. This is so sad. We did enjoy our times with her and will miss watching the sun and moon rising over Mt Rainier. Goodbye Nancy.”

 

President Emeritus Dick Sneary, Kansas City, MO:
“Nancy listened to us, was always friendly, but you could also sense a friendly argumentative stance, when she wanted to know more about a subject. She told us about her ancestor’s links to Norway after a visit. Nancy made it a point to reconnect for some good times with me & other ASAI members during a national plein air event in Monterey.”

 

President Emeritus Henry Sorenson, Bozeman MT:
“Nancy was fully committed to the ASAI –she got to every conference I can remember after her joining. She always felt she was not really a very accomplished artist but she loved learning, and loved the ASAI, and she loved us. I suggested to Nancy that she consider joining the Board as she had such a talent for organization and I thought she might be good at helping to re-organize and rewrite the ASAI Operations Manual. She did both; I know she worked on it hard for some time. Nancy was completely genuine and …pretty fearless –confident enough to speak her mind and confident enough to try almost anything. She shared her sense of things in open, frank, always thought-through reflections. Yet she was a gentle soul …always kind, always caring. She made everyone love her. You didn’t really have a choice. I have been fortunate to have been invited to join the Grey-Haired Lady Gang (Elizabeth Day, Barbara Ratner, Marsha Brown, and Nancy) for several sightseeing outings in various conference venues –always great fun.My photo is…of the (Grey-Haired) Ladies in Blue navigating a mazein Houston. And…Nancy was once John Wayne’s nurse: she kept proof in her wallet –a well-worn photo of the two, arm in arm. We will all carry on without her, even though I know she is still with us in spirit.”

Nancy with ASAI member/friends on RFK Greenway, Boston, AIP 31

President Emeritus Masaaki Yamada, Tokyo, JP:
“I just recently lost my father, and I can’t stop feeling saddened by this news.She came to Tokyo in 2011 and I have many fond memories of her.I will miss Nancy very much.”

President Emeritus Richard Chenowith, Silver Springs, MD:
“Thank you for passing on the news, Steve. So sorry to hear this… Getting to know her at…conferences was a joy.”

President Emeritus Frank Bartus, Miami,FL:
“Saddened to hear of this.Nancy was very loyal to all of us and it was always welcoming to see her. Thanks for letting us know Steve.”

Former ASAI Executive Director, Tamara Horch-Prezioso:
“She was such a loving, caring, compassionate person.More than once, her encouragement kept me going.I feel blessed beyond words to have known her. Thank you for including me on this message. I am so sorry to hear this and so very sorry for your loss. Nancy was an amazing person and I absolutely loved visiting with her when I worked with ASAI. She and I had numerous deep phone conversations…so supportive and loving.”

ASAI Member Marsha Brown, Toronto,CA:
“Nancy spotted me hesitating on the doorstep of my first seminar at my first conference in Providence in 2004. She immediately got up, took me under her wing, and connected me to ASAI forever. I am so saddened by her loss.”

Nancy was A Wonderful Soul…ASAI members are welcome to share more of these memories, like those recalled above. We must now be contented by these thoughts; and envision that Nancy, as a devout parishioner in Monterey, a choir member and singer, has now joined a Heavenly Choir to sing her Lord’s Praises.