September 4, 1931 - July 21, 2016
Westfield, New Jersey | Age 84
Nancy Sturmer Derrey
There are so many things I don't know about my grandmother, but I'll start with the things I do. I know that she was born in Chicago on September 4, 1931 to Mildred and Carl Sturmer. I know that she graduated from Westfield High School in 1949 and then from Syracuse University in 1953. I know that she was a little wild, that she and her best friends called themselves the Hell's Belles. I know that she and my grandfather got together almost on a fluke. He called her house to talk to her brother, one of his best friends, and when he got Nan on the phone he joked, "Hey Nan, we're going to the movies. Wanna be my date?" He loves to tell that story. We've all heard it a thousand times. They lived in Westfield, New Jersey for most of their married life, members of the Westfield Tennis Club and Echo Lake Country Club.
I know that she looked better in bangs than I ever could, that her prom dress was about seven sizes too small for me despite her height of 5'9". She taught us that a grey cashmere sweatsuit can be just as glamorous as stilettos, that Christmas ornaments are best kept in Tiffany's boxes and holiday cards sent in early September. She taught us to love animals, even if that meant feeding wild cats until they became tame enough to hold. But it wasn't just animals. Throughout my life, near-strangers have remarked on my grandmother. She exuded generosity and love, and she had a wicked, clever sense of humor. Nan was never boring and she was never bored. Her energy was contagious, her heart big. When the physical therapist asked for her finger a week before she died, she winked and said she'd only give her the middle one. When the roast didn't fit into the oven on Christmas Eve years ago, she put on her sunglasses and danced around to some hip hop album, attempting to sing along. Nothing brought her as much joy as being with her family and treating us to incredible experiences, except, maybe, getting her hair done in New York followed by lunch and shopping.
Nanny wanted to arrive at the grave exhausted and spent after a life well lived, and she did. She is survived by her loving husband, Robert Derrey, her beloved children, Michael Derrey, Ann Derrey Bermingham, Susan Derrey Bird, and Jacqueline Derrey Segura, thirteen grandchildren and her brother, Richard Sturmer. And then, of course, her animals—Mr. Twinkletoes, Tabby Cat, and Lucy.
As for the things I don't know… I don't know how she tucked her children in at night. I don't know what she did on her vacation to Morocco a million years ago or what kind of trouble she got into with her friends on the Jersey Shore or how she reacted when her daughters crashed the car into the neighbor's shrubs or even what she thought of God. We so often think of death as something final, but Nanny isn't gone. Our relationships with her will continue to evolve and grow as we learn more about her, as we hear stories and reach stages in our own lives that remind us of her, that help us understand her as a mother, a grandmother, a wife, a friend. We all love you, Nanny, and we're forever grateful for the time we had together!
There will be a private burial at 11:30 am on Monday, July 25, followed by a 12:00 public service at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Westfield, New Jersey. Arrangements by Gray Funeral Home, Westfield. Go to grayfuneralhomes.com for on line condolences.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made in the memory of Nancy Derrey to, Fidofixers.org