Obituary of Nancy M. Buttimer
Mrs. Nancy Morford Buttimer, born in 1937 in Spencer, WVa. to Ruby Whiting (homemaker) and Ivan Morford (business man), passed away on August 15th, 2023. She had been living in Plainfield, NJ under the long-term care of her daughter, Cathy Cole-Diouf. Nancy had suffered from dementia for many years, and it was only due to Cathy’s tireless efforts that she was able to remain in the quiet comfort of at-home care.
Growing up in rural WVa, Nancy always had an easy, relaxed manner about her. She used to pride herself on her steadiness and unflappability. Despite the relaxed demeanor, Nancy was an accomplished musician, playing flute, piano and organ. Most impressive, though, was her soprano voice which she shared with the world through church service singing and in madrigal groups she participated in over the years.
After graduating from Marshall University in 1959 with a degree in home economics and education, she married fellow student Robert C. Cole, and then resided in Winston Salem, NC. There she gave birth first to Cathy, in 1960, and then to a son, Alan, in 1964. The family then moved to Bethlehem in 1965 where Robert took a job with Lehigh University, and then later earned a PhD in English. In Bethlehem, besides raising the two children, Nancy was active with the local PTA and the Green Circle Program that worked to promote racial justice and equality. It was in Bethlehem that she also started her career as a preschool teacher, volunteering at Bethlehem’s Wesley United Methodist Church. Nancy would prove herself to be an excellent preschool teacher and, in time, a capable administrator of preschools, as well. Nancy loved working with children, and spent countless hours preparing daily lessons and activities for her students. In fact, this was a labor of love and Nancy was known to quip that most of the interesting people she knew were under age 6.
After divorcing Robert Cole in 1972, Nancy married Rev. John T “Jack” Buttimer in 1973, and they moved to Drexel Hill where Jack took a church with the United Methodists. There, Nancy continued her work with children, while also singing in the choir and helping to raise her step-son, Jeff Buttimer. In 1979, Nancy and Jack moved the family to Newton, PA where they were to stay for 13 years, developing a strong congregation at the Newtown United Methodist church. Continuing in the tradition of periodically moving from congregation to congregation, the couple then moved to West Lawn, PA, (near Reading) where they again established a thriving Methodist community. In both settings, Nancy showed her skill and dedication in setting up and running nursery schools. The couple’s final church-related move was to Plattsburgh, NY where both Nancy and Jack sought to experience more nature and less traffic — they also began sailing on Lake Champlain which had been a life-long dream. When Jack retired in 2001, they moved to Westport, NY and settled into comfortable country living, focusing on gardening, hiking, and sailing in the summer, and snow shoeing and snow shoveling (!) in the winter. Nancy continued with her singing, and was a regular member of the community chorale group, while also volunteering with the local literacy program — something she had begun back in her days in Bethlehem, PA.
The people who knew Nancy would often marvel at her steady and unaffected manner, and the way she was such a careful and considerate listener. Besides being gifted with a kind of natural wisdom about life, Nancy’s life-long commitment to reading literature —and her beloved New Yorker subscription — meant she was well aware of life’s complexities. Many found her to be a spiritual person, but without the churchy affect and with a strong commitment to feminist values— she was life-long member of the American Association of University Women.
Even when stricken by dementia — in the wake of a serious case of Lyme disease — Nancy remained a kind, thoughtful, and even funny companion. Those who knew her in her final phases marveled that a person could be so stricken by a disease and yet remain resolutely polite, surprisingly upbeat, and deeply appreciative of the care she received. We will miss her very much.
She is survived by a son, Dr. Alan Cole and his wife Jennifer Tsen of Westport, NY; a daughter, Cathryn Cole and her husband, Babacar Diouf, of Plainfield, NJ; a step-son, Jeffrey Buttimer, and his companion Gloria Hicks, of Plano, Texas; and a step-daughter, Deborah Buttimer, of Morrisville, PA. She also has four grandchildren, Omar and Alsan Diouf, and Alysen and Jeremy Gunzelman. She was preceded in death by her husband, John T. “Jack” Buttimer, who passed away in 2016.