Nancy Jo Erickson Carlile, 84, of Sanibel, passed away February 28, 2021, at Life Care of Estero, in Estero, FL. Born August 19, 1936 in Gothenburg, NE., she was the daughter of Daniel Cyrrus Erickson and Phoebe Elanor Stonebarger. Nancy concluded her story, the finer points of which she shared, as talented storytellers do, with enthusiasm and great detail into her ninth decade. She was born in Nebraska in 1936, one of five siblings – four daughters and a son – to parents whose families came as immigrants into a new state. Nancy Jo was raised in Omaha and her senior yearbook outlines an active year in a racially integrated school – a year of pep squad, French club, and yearbook editor. For every one of those activities Nancy Jo had a story, or twelve, often told with a hoot and a laugh she had to lean back to set free.
Trainloads of students made their way to points east off the plains – to colleges strung along the route, or home again for holidays, to summer jobs, or semesters away. The trains carried Nancy first to Park College and then on the Thoroughbred of the Monon line from Chicago down to Indiana University for the chapter when she met Jim Carlile and volunteered to help him with his youth work, an arrangement that allowed her to spend more time with him. They were together as summer camp counselors, then married as he moved to start his career with the Boys and Girls Clubs, first in Huntington WV, where they welcomed their first child, Suzan, then to a new chapter in Greater Memphis, TN., where son Thad was born.
When tragedy struck, Nancy and Jim opened their home and hearts to her sister’s three children: Scoop, Breeze, and Jeff. More kids meant new chapters and more stories to share. Great support came to her from her church family at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, where the children were kept busy in the youth and recreation ministries and where a number of congregation families became lifelong friends. Nancy, Jim, and the children set root in the Central Gardens neighborhood of midtown Memphis and thrived in a community with neighbors and schools within walking distance even as that city struggled with civil rights and busing.
The children began to take wing and the home hinted at the coming silence of an empty nest; Nancy returned to college to pursue her Ph.D. in Education, drafting a dissertation she never defended which described the inherent bias in standardized testing; she had been swept up in a job on campus at the University of Memphis guiding athletes through the challenges of keeping academics a priority while travelling for Division I competition. Throughout this time Nancy and Jim opened their home to students far from their own, whether an athlete with a blown knee or a grad student half a world from her family in Thailand, whether soldiers stuck at the USO for Thanksgiving or international travelers affiliated with SERVAS, an international organization for peace.
When Nancy and Jim brought their professional lives to a close, they packed up a motor home and hit the road to see the places new to them, and to find the next spot to set root. They found it in 1997 on Sanibel Island, Florida. A few years later, once again on the road and exploring the great west, they found a second, cooler summer spot in Thayne, Wyoming and set more roots there. Between the two places Nancy’s cast of characters grew, along with her treasure trove of stories. She regaled new friends in each locale with the escapades, inevitable setbacks, but mostly triumphs of the passing years.
Nancy’s passions were varied, but her attention to each was focused: her family; golf – at one point a playing member at three clubs simultaneously; quilting, a hobby no doubt influenced by Jim’s Aunt Bessie who was a prolific quilter who sent dozens over years to the home in Memphis; writing her own stories and reading those of others; sharing stories whether her own, or from others, whether in print or on screen; and friends.
It was Nancy’s desire that those friends wishing to honor her memory do so with contributions to Idlewild Church, Boy and Girls Club of Memphis, or Big Arts of Sanibel.
Nancy leaves her five children: Scoop (Jane) of Houston TX; Breeze of Oakland CA; Suzan of Sanibel FL; Jeff of Oakland CA; and Thad of Memphis TN. She also leaves five grandchildren, many great friends, and countless stories in the hearts of those who knew her, for it is the stories that live on when roots become wings and angels fly.
Baldwin Brothers Funeral & Cremation Society, Fort Myers, assisted with arrangements.