Helping Others in Life and Death
By: Brittany Liantonio
Nancy Meyer, born February 26, 1946, was a true inspiration to everyone who knew her. "She was amazing," says Peggy Frank, age 67, "not just because she was my sister, but because she had an outlook on life that was just unbelievable." After a 35 year struggle with health issues, Meyer died on March 19, 2010 at the age of 64.
Like in life as well as death, Meyer just wanted to help others anyway she could. "The sky was the limit in what she would do to make life better for someone else," says her sister, Frank. Meyer wanted donations made to the Reeve Foundation and the Humane Society upon her death so that others could benefit. At her funeral, Jeffrey Frank, Meyer's nephew said, "That was Aunt Nancy -- kind, selfless, always doing for others without any expectation or ulterior motive."
The reason that Meyer chose the Humane Society was because she was a big lover of animals and had cats herself. "She felt that animals could be used to help people feel better," says Frank, who further explains that although Meyer cared deeply about animals, it was the Reeve Foundation to which she felt a very strong connection. She drew a parallel between her life and that of Christopher Reeve. She identified with him because he used his disability in a positive way to help others.
"Both individuals kept going forward and wanted to go forward for the good of others," says Frank. "Although Nancy wasn't in the financial position that Christopher Reeve was, because he was a known entity, there isn't anything she wouldn't have done to help others."
Since Meyer loved children, she still wanted a job that would allow her to work with them. After learning to write with her left hand, Meyer decided to go back to school to earn a master's degree in social work from Wayne State University in Michigan. She obtained a position at Kingswood Psychiatric Hospital where she was a social worker with adolescents for 28 years. "She had the utmost respect of her colleagues, and particularly of the children with whom she worked," says Frank. "Every child wanted Nancy as his or her social worker and the staff wanted to work directly with her."
Putting others first
Similarly, Meyer constantly made jokes about her arm to make others feel more comfortable. "We would go to a restaurant and her arm would slide down and she would say to whoever was sitting next to her, 'Go ahead and put my arm on my lap would you please,'" says Frank. "Or, 'Help me with my coat, stick this thing in would you,' and she would not think twice about it. We were more self-conscious than she was, let's put it that way."
Whether with family, friends, or perfect strangers, Meyer was always trying to help others and use her experiences to benefit them. Meyer suffered from a rare skin condition, Dermatomyositis, a connective-tissue disease that results in inflammation of the muscles and skin. According to Frank, when the doctors where treating Meyer for this condition, they asked if they could take pictures of her to use for studies in the medical school. Her doctors would also ask to bring students in to see her. "She said 'Absolutely, if it will help someone else not experience all that I've experienced,'" says Frank. "She wanted to use everything that went astray with her to help other people."
"To know Nancy was to love Nancy," says Frank. "Although her family, friends, and the individuals with whom she worked have lost her physical presence, Nancy's memory and her impact live on in the many lives she touched."
Read more about our donors and learn about the Michael A. Hughes Planned Giving Society.
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