Nancy P. Strickland
Last updated 10/13/2021 at 3:15pm
Nancy Lynne Pittman Strickland, 76, passed peacefully on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 at her home on Jeffress Drive in Henderson, N.C., surrounded by her family.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Samuel Clyde Pittman and Doris Wingard Pittman, and her stepmother, Irene Chilton Pittman.
An active member of First Baptist Church in Henderson, she was passionate about the Women's Bible Study and the BackPack Buddies Program.
She is survived by her husband, John Allen Strickland, of Henderson; children, Jennifer Williams (David), of Brevard, Samuel Strickland (Lisa), of State College, Pa., and Sara Strickland (Sean), of Fredericksburg, Va .; five grandchildren, Erika Williams (Joseph), Abigail Williams, Johnny Strickland, Elsa Strickland and Benjamin Strickland; her sister, Judith Mascari, of Atlanta; and a host of extended family and friends.
Despite sharing a room growing up, she can't remember a single sibling rivalry between her and her "sweet little sister." The two were attached at the hip almost from the moment she was born during a blizzard in Akron, Ohio. "Nobody's an angel," Judy said, but she was pretty close."
She made a home for many, brimming with warmth and sweet tea, love, and irresistible peanut butter fudge. "The first time I saw her, I wondered what she was smiling about," said John, her husband of 54 years. Letters he receives from their many beloved friends often mention her luminous smile, which brightened every room she entered. During their long and beautiful marriage, John never heard Nancy utter a negative word about anyone.
"All who knew my mother were aware of the kind words she was ready to cast upon all. All who worked with her (or happened to watch Jeopardy! with her) knew how intelligent she was. And those that knew her best realized how tough she was," said Sam.
"When we watched Jeopardy!, she would whisper the answers under her breath so that someone else could get it and win," Abby recalled. "Everything she loved had to do with the relationships she'd built," she noted, mentioning that her grandmother was dependable and always there for others, while overcoming obstacles of her own.
Her kindness was easily felt by everyone around her, but those closest to her know just how much it was founded upon her uncompromising resilience and fortitude. Her positive impact on others is evident in the outpouring of love from friends dating back to her time as a high school student in Cedartown, Ga. Many of those friends visited her in the hospital when, during her senior year, she was expected to gain her wings.
Judy recalls that, until Nancy was better, the entire senior class met to pray for her every day before school. Many regarded her recovery as a miracle, as her family had been told she had a one-in-one thousand chance of survival. It was this experience, Nancy said, that led to her studies and long career in medicine.
She retired from Maria Parham Hospital where she was a highly respected microbiologist for more than 30 years. Sara has fond memories of going to her mother's lab after school where "she was always excited to let me look through the microscopes and show me what she was working on."
"If the "extra" 60 years she made happen could be measured in lives improved, whether by correct diagnoses, or kind acts or words, I'm pretty sure she set a tough standard for us to live up to," Sam said. She was always determined to help her children and grandchildren tackle the hardest problems, helping Jennifer identify unknown bacteria when she had lab work of her own. "She loved mysteries," Jennifer said, adding that her mother was always intrigued by figuring things out and helping others do the same.
"I remember visiting her childhood bedroom and seeing her large collection of Nancy Drew books," Jennifer said, "and I think she carried that love of mysteries and puzzles throughout her life." But the most important thing to her, Jennifer said, was her family.
Sara admires her strength and the light that she shone through many struggles. "I think she was just a ray of sunshine who truly wanted the best for everyone and made everyone feel good about themselves," Sara said. Sara most strongly feels her mother's presence while at the beach or Kerr Lake. "Every time I go swimming, I can see her standing on the shore just like she did when we went swimming as kids," Sara said, "always watching over us and making sure we were safe."
Kind, smart, determined and gentle, she "always wanted everybody to be happy and did everything she could to make that happen," Jennifer said. This is how her family, and the countless lives she touched, will remember her.
She will be remembered in every new tulip bloom, John Denver song, shopping trip, Easter egg hunt and warm smile. She will be felt, always, guiding her family through life's toughest puzzles.
The family will receive friends and share remembrances of Nancy at a potluck dinner on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021 at 2 p.m. at Shelter 1 of Satterwhite Point Recreation Area.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. in the garden of First Baptist Church in Henderson by Dr. Ron Cava, for family and close friends to attend.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to FBC Henderson (BackPack Buddies), P.O. Box 75, Henderson, NC 27536.
Arrangements are by J.M. White Funeral Home.