Rev. Nancy C.
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Nancy Roemheld was an extraordinary woman, who used every moment of her time on this earth to the fullest possible extent. She was a nurturing mother, who also wanted to make a difference in the world – she was dedicated to getting her hands deep into things, to making real change. After raising four children of her own, Nancy went on to serve as a minister for 22 years, and was politically active for her entire life. Even at the age of 80, Nancy still had ideas and dreams enough to keep herself busy for several more lifetimes. Nancy’s passion, commitment, and faith inspired many, and will live on as a source of strength and inspiration in the hearts and memories of all those who had the privilege of knowing her.
Nancy was born on February 23, 1932, the year that Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover, the first gas tax was levied in the U.S. (one cent per gallon), and the first woman was elected to the United States Senate. Nancy lived in an orphanage until she was adopted. One of Nancy’s first memories was a trial visit to Frederick and Ruth Stevens’ home during Christmas of 1935. Frederick and Ruth decided to adopt Nancy, and she became a permanent member of the Stevens household in April of 1936. They lived in Holyoke, Massachusetts, where Frederick earned a living as an insurance agent. Ruth, a homemaker, was a strong and fiercely opinionated woman.
Although Nancy was lucky to be adopted, her new home was not as stable as could be wished. In later years, Nancy realized that Frederick and Ruth’s marriage was suffering, and felt she was adopted in an effort to “sew up” their relationship. They eventually divorced in 1940, a scandalous event for the time – some parents in the neighborhood would not allow Nancy to play with their children anymore. Some of Nancy’s fondest memories from her childhood are those of times spent with her grandmother, who lived with the family, and her brother, Marshall. Nancy also loved reading, a skill she taught herself before she entered school, and often said, “My books are my friends.”
After graduating from high school in 1949, Nancy went on to business school. She graduated in 1950, and found a job with TWA and Continental Airlines in Washington, D.C. While living in D.C., Nancy met Fred Roemheld. Nancy and Fred soon fell in love, and were married in 1952. Although their marriage would eventually end in divorce, they remained friends, and enjoyed family holidays with their children.
As the years went by, Nancy and Fred were blessed with four children, whom they named Joanne, Kathryn, Steven, and MaryBeth. Nancy was a stay-at-home mom, raising the children while Fred worked two jobs. Although Nancy would go on to achieve much in her life, being a mother was always her first and most important accomplishment.
In addition to caring for her family, Nancy was passionate about politics, social justice, and religion. She never missed voting in an election, and campaigned for presidents from Kennedy to Obama. In the 1960s, long before white social activism became popular, Nancy and Fred took their children on Open Housing marches. They introduced their children to different cultures, opened their eyes to the injustices in the world around them, and taught them the importance of tolerance. Nancy and Fred both belonged to the Unitarian Church, where they found views about liberal religion and social justice similar to their own.
After her children were all in high school and college, Nancy decided to re-enter the workforce. She worked at Eddie Glorioso’s Grocery, and also served as Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Milwaukee Urban League. She had wonderful memories there and remained close to the leaders the rest of her life.
Nancy returned to college as an adult at age 45. She graduated from Alverno College in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She went on to attain a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School, both in 1986. Nancy was ordained June 1, 1986, as a Unitarian Universalist minister, beginning as amazing 22 year career in ministry.
Nancy started her ministerial career in Athens, Georgia, where she served for 10 years. She then became an interim minister, and over the next 12 years traveled all over the United States and Canada, serving congregations from North Carolina to California. Nancy made friends all across the country, and each of her congregations remember her as an amazing minister and a truly special person.
Nancy’s sermons as a minister were both insightful and inspirational, and touched many hearts throughout the years. In her own words, “From the depths of the collective human consciousness, the cosmic drama of the resurrection story emerged – to remind us that the heroic, fulfilled and therefore deathless life is achieved by surmounting some crucifixion, by living through some dark night of the soul; to remind us that the creative spirit of love lives in you and me . . . waiting to be expressed and experienced.”
In 2007, Nancy retired and returned to Milwaukee, proud to have served Universalist congregations across the U.S. and Canada for 22 years. She enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time with family, and looked forward to holidays and family celebrations. Each year, Nancy would call her children on their birthdays and say, “I’m glad you were born.”
In 2010, Joanne and Kathryn took her to Ireland. She had learned as an adult that her birth mother was from County Monaghan in Ireland. She visited Dublin, Belfast, County Monaghan and every afternoon sang Irish songs with their very dear tour guide, Tommy O’Toole, including her favorite song, “Danny Boy.”
Optimistic and dedicated to changing the world, kind-hearted and a friend to everyone she met, Nancy was a loving mother and grandmother, an inspiring minister, and a tireless advocate for change. She will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered by her many friends and family members.
Rev. Nancy Carol Roemheld (nee Stevens) died on January 4, 2013, at the age of 80. Nancy’s family includes her children, Joanne R. Jeanguenat, Kathryn C. (Mick) Zunac, Steven F. (Margaret) Roemheld, and MaryBeth (Laurie Gift) Roemheld; her grandchildren, Kristen (Jen Dittrich-Templin) Templin and Jonathan (Suzanne Hammond) Templin; her great-grandchild, Nora; her nephew, Bryant (Cathy) Welles; and other relatives, friends, and her very special kitty, Molly. She was preceded in death by her former husband and friend, Fred Roemheld; and her brother and sister-in-law, Marshall and Betty Stevens.
A Memorial Service will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, 1342 N. Astor Street. If desired, memorials may be directed to Happy Endings Animal Shelter in Milwaukee or the Unitarian Universalist Association at uua.org. Please visit Nancy’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can learn more about her life, share a favorite memory or photo, and sign the online guestbook.