Nancy Ducey, a San Geronimo Valley woman whose tender touch reached everyone in her community, passed away from breast cancer on January 17. She was 62.
Nancy was a happy person. She loved to laugh, even as she was struggling to beat her illness. For decades Nancy worked to help provide for her family. She was a doula—a woman who provides support and guidance before and during a birth—and helped bring dozens of children into the world.
“Nancy always loved her life, even when it was difficult,” said her childhood friend, Carol Edmund. “She had a zest for truth. She was always so proud of Chris and her kids and her grandkids.”
Nancy was born in Los Angeles on February 4, 1948 to Edwin Canepa and Olive Beede. Edwin was a voice announcer for ABC television, working under the stage name Ed Chandler. For years, millions of viewers would hear Edwin announce, “This is Ed Chander inviting you to tune in tomorrow, Monday, and every weekday for General Hospital.” Beede was a registered nurse, who retired to take care of her family.
Nancy loved growing up on the beaches of Malibu and Santa Monica, living in a ranch house in the San Fernando Valley. “We danced at church dances. We danced at the Sunset Strip. We danced some more,” Carol said. “We spent endless days on the beach sunning and swimming, talking about everything and nothing.”
After she graduated from Grant High School in Los Angeles, Nancy met a young man named Chris, who was a friend of her brother Dan’s. “I had just moved out from New York,” said Chris, who was a singer-songwriter and half of the guitar/piano duo Prairie Madness.
“I went over to Dan’s house, and Nancy opened the door. That led to me sniffing around again. She was perky and nice and friendly.” They started dating, and eloped a year later.
The couple was married at the Bride’s Choice Wedding Chapel in Los Angeles. “It was a memorable wedding,” Chris said. “We started at another place, and wound up caravanning to this funky house that had a chapel in the front, and probably tore the guy away from his football. But those were rock and roll days, so, you know, it was okay.” On the way out of the chapel, Nancy was inadvertently hit in the face with a handful of rice.
The couple gave birth to a daughter, Kenna, ten months later, and to a son, Colin, two years after that. “She was the best mom you could possibly ask for,” Kenna said. “My mother championed for me. There were no fences placed around me.”
Colin said that Nancy would do anything, endure any hardship, for her children. “Once we were out on a hike in the eastern Sierras, at a place called the Devil’s Postpile. It was a volcanic mound of shattered obsidian,” he said. “I was a little boy, maybe seven or ten, and we hiked pretty far. I don’t know if mom knew about the mountain, but she was hiking barefoot, which meant she was walking on shattered glass. I got burnt out, and couldn’t walk any more.” Nancy picked up her son and carried him, barefoot, down the mountain of obsidian.
Nancy and Chris moved from Los Angeles to San Anselmo, where they rented a house, and, in 1983, moved to their permanent home in the San Geronimo Valley. Nancy helped support her family, working as a dental assistant, legal secretary, waitress and receptionist.
Despite her lack of higher education, Nancy was a gifted writer. “She had a sense of humor in her writing that was very charming,” Chris said. “She had her own voice. If you read her frequently, you would hear her.”
Nancy’s friend Dava was nearly nine months pregnant when Dava’s husband passed away from cancer. Nancy took her in, and helped her through the birth of Dava’s daughter, Dori. Afterwards she decided to become a doula. She assisted in numerous births, including her daughter’s.
“Although I had a very challenging and risky birth… She brought a sense of calm to me throughout the process,” Kenna said. “I felt like I not only had someone respectful of my personality and desires, but felt that she was a beacon of light, like I was following her throughout the process.”
Nancy had a calming effect on everyone around her. “Fire alarms going off, people running around like chickens with their heads cut off, and she would just be there, calming everyone down,” Chris said. “If an old man fell down on the street, she’d be the first to pick them up. If someone was in distress, it was amazing how she sensed it and moved into action.”
Nancy’s compassion for everyone and everything was nearly inexhaustible. “She was the most empathetic person I ever met,” Chris said. “She could never watch animal shows where animals were hurt. She felt it. It made her a very likeable person. Unless you were a total jerk, she’d treat you as part of the family, as an equal.”
Even after she was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, Nancy never let go of her optimism and hope. “Going through chemo, an operation, radiation, it was like a triathlon where every leg could kill you,” Chris said. “She never complained, just got back on track and kept going.”
Nancy is survived by her husband, Chris; children, Kenna and Colin; grandchildren Haley Faith, Zach and Lauren; brother, Dan and sister, Laurie.
Donations can be made in Nancy’s name to any cause. A private memorial for Nancy will be held later this year.