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Nancy J. Weirich

January 28, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • This photo of Ned and Nancy Weirich was taken in front of their Cool Hollow Road home in Hagerstown on Easter in 2011.
Submitted photo

Nancy Weirich was born to be a teacher.

For about 25 years, she worked in her chosen profession, the majority of the time as a third-grade teacher for Washington County Public Schools.

“Nancy influenced a lot of people,” said her husband, Ned Weirich, of Hagerstown.

A 1964 graduate of North Hagerstown High School, Nancy Nye was a freshman when she met Ned Weirich, a junior from Ashland, Ohio, while they were college students at Grace College in Winona Lake, Ind.

Nancy was hesitant to go out with Ned because she had a boyfriend back in Hagerstown, but he persisted.

Their first date was a double date to the stock car races. The other couple also ended up getting married, Ned said.

Nancy loved to sing and the couple would sing duets, often chauffeured by the college’s president to Sunday evening singing engagements, Ned said.

In high school, Nancy sang with a madrigal group. Her love for singing continued throughout her life and she sang with the church choir until several weeks before Christmas.

Nancy and Ned married in 1966 and both became teachers. They returned to Nancy’s hometown of Hagerstown in 1971.

Ned taught and coached most of his career at South Hagerstown High School.

Nancy also was a youth leader at church and taught children’s Sunday school.

Oldest son Jeffrey “Jeff” Weirich of Virginia Beach, Va., said he and his brother attended Funkstown Elementary School when their mother taught there. He remembers walking down the hall and seeing other students in his clothing and came to understand that his mother shared with others from their bounty.

“She embodied what teachers strive to be,” Jeff said. “She would make sacrifices for others.”

Even when hypertension of the kidney caused her to go on dialysis in June 2000 after a car accident, Nancy found a way to help others.

She worked for several years as a patient advocate at Robinwood Dialysis for other dialysis patients, helping resolve issues they were having with their treatments.

Nancy previously had gone to Meadow Dialysis Center, but Robinwood was closer to the Cool Hollow Road home the Weirichs had built in 1976 and she didn’t want Ned driving any farther than necessary.

Ned kept Nancy moving and connected.

“Most people after dialysis would come home and go to sleep. Instead, we’d go out to eat. We had things to do,” Ned said.

Nancy was on dialysis three times a week for almost 12 years, but that didn’t stop the couple from the travel they loved. They made arrangements for Nancy to have dialysis treatments wherever they were.

In 2001, Nancy received another blow following a long-anticipated trip.

Nancy loved the beach and had a fondness for lighthouses, both to visit and collect. A 2001 trip to Maine included stops at every lighthouse as they drove up Route 1 to Bar Harbor, Ned said.

After indulging in strawberry popovers at Jordan’s Pond in Acadia National Park, they decided to take a hike, with Ned choosing the strenuous hike over the leisurely walk. As they reached a turnaround point, Ned sensed Nancy was struggling.

She admitted that she didn’t feel well and wasn’t sure how she would make it back. They took the leisurely walk back.

“That was the beginning,” Ned said of medical issues that would change their lives.

When they returned home, Nancy was referred to a doctor at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. Fibromyalgia, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis were ruled out and Nancy was told they thought she had scleroderma.

“We never heard of it,” Ned said.

Scleroderma is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases, according to the Scleroderma Foundation’s website. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible symptoms of the disease. 

“It’s quite a debilitating disease,” Ned said. “There is no known cause or cure.”

Nancy persevered through more than 50 operations to relieve bleeding in her stomach. Over the course of her illness, she required more than 100 units of blood, Ned said. 

Nancy soon had to give up driving because she no longer could grip the steering wheel. The loss of independence was hard for her because she never wanted to be a burden on anyone, said Nathan Weirich of Sharpsburg, the youngest of the couple’s two sons.

Nancy far exceeded the five-year life expectancy she was given, surviving 11 1/2 years after her diagnosis. In preparation for her death, she made audio tapes for the immediate family, completing her gift to her family in 2008.

Earlier this month, she had to give up dialysis because she no longer could eat or keep medications down. Despite her pain, Nathan said his mother reminded them there were other people in more pain than she was.

“There was one word for her — servant — for the Lord, for our family. She’d do anything for anybody,” Nathan said.

“Even on her death bed, she knew I was tired. She said, ‘You need to go home and get some sleep.’”

Nathan said his mother shopped for others, but rarely came home with anything for herself. Ned was the one who would buy most of her clothes, so she would have something new.

“Her whole life was about others,” Nathan said. 

It was her faith that kept Nancy strong. She was a member of Paramount Baptist Church and a former member of Grace Brethren Church in Hagerstown.

“She totally relied on Jesus for that comfort. That was who she was,” Jeff said. “She lived that every day, prayerfully committed to Him. She never wavered in her faith.”

While raising her family, which includes five grandchildren, Nancy attended countless tennis, soccer and basketball games her sons played in, whether at home or away.

“That was part of her life,” Jeff said. “She wanted to experience those things with us as we experienced them. She never missed.”

She also enjoyed watching the athletic events her husband coached. 

Nancy frequently was in the water with the kids, whether at the beach or pool. She also loved canoeing.

“She loved her family,” Nathan said. “We had so many good times camping up and down the coast.”

Through it all, Nancy continued to attend her grandchildren’s activities as she was able. Nathan II spent many weekends with his grandparents and described his grandmother as the “consummate cook.”

“That’s because she made it to order for him, no matter what it was,” son Nathan said.

Nancy loved the TV series “Little House on the Prairie” and her favorite movie was “The Sound of Music”.

“She’d often say she was born in the wrong time,” Ned said. 

Even though Ned had to do the cooking for Christmas, Nathan said his mother was helping get things ready.

“She fought to the end,” Nathan said.

Her beloved Springer spaniel, 10-year-old Molly, still looks for Nancy when Ned pulls up in the car.

“She did everything for us,” Nathan said. “We had a great life. We had two great parents.”

“She was the most gracious person — giving and not expecting anything in return, not even a thank you,” Jeff said.

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Nancy J. Weirich who died Jan. 16 at the age of 65. Her obituary was published in the Jan. 18 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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