Nancy McNeill passed away peacefully at Cottage Hospital on Saturday, February 19, 2005 at the age of 78. She spent her last days surrounded by family members and the extraordinary caregivers that had become very close to her during her ten year struggle with Cold Agglutinin Disease and Waldenstrom’s Lymphoma. Her strong will to survive was an inspiration to all, as was her grace, courage and lack of self-pity.
Nancy was born in Charleston, Illinois on September 17, 1926 to Adin Baber & Lois Shoot. She was a true child of the Illinois prairie and became interested in the history of her pioneer family from a young age. She and her sister Alice spent their childhoods in Illinois and Florida, much of it on the Baber farm near Kansas, Illinois. She suffered the loss of her mother at the age of 16, in the midst of World War II.
Nancy graduated from Kansas High School in 1944. She attended McMurray College in Jacksonville IL before earning a degree in English from Washington University in St. Louis MO. She was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.
She married John Konrad Kern in1948. They made their home in Washington D.C. where she had a brief career with the Central Intelligence Agency. She started her lifelong travels with a solo trip to Europe, which inspired her to move her young family to Germany for an extended stay a few years later. Her three sons were born in 1954,1956 and 1960. She gave her children an appreciation of history, cultures and languages by the experience of living and travelling throughout Europe and into Africa.
Nancy next settled in Carpinteria CA where she married Charles A. McNeill, Jr. and joined Carpinteria Community Church. She helped Chuck run his orchard management business and began managing the Illinois farm after the loss of her father in 1974. This duty involved many trips back to her ancestral home, which she kept in a remarkable state of preservation for the benefit of future generations. She lost her sister Alice in 1981. She became very involved in the lives of her six grandchildren. She was active in the Scottish Society of Santa Barbara as well as Clan Macneil on whose national council she served until her death. She performed as a member of a Scottish Country Dancing group until the onset of her disease in 1995. She built a strong marriage with Chuck and, despite her own worsening health, became his primary caregiver as he struggled with Alzheimer’s disease at the end of his life. She lost Chuck in 2001.
Nancy expressed her lifelong interest in history and genealogy by setting to work on the revision of one of her father’s books, The Hanks Family of Virginia and Westward. She joined genealogical societies, traveled to libraries, and learned how to use the internet to conduct her research once she was no longer able to travel. She took great satisfaction is seeing the book published in September of 2004, an accomplishment all the more remarkable because of her increasing disability.