Nancy Louise (Armstrong) Crochet
May 15, 1955 – June 19, 2019
Nancy Louise Crochet passed away at the West Shore Hospital in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania on June 19th, 2019 from complications associated with her three and a half year battle against lung cancer. She was one of the “unlucky” twenty percent of lung cancer patients who never smoked and who were never exposed to second hand smoke. Nonetheless, she remained upbeat throughout her ordeal, fighting the disease to the end with the help of her family and friends. When it was time for her to leave this life, she went about it in the same manner that she did everything - quickly and with grace - remaining in the hospital only long enough for her loving family to be with her at her passing.
Nancy was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 15, 1955 to William and Mary Lou Armstrong. She grew up in the greater Baltimore area, but attended and graduated from J. P. Stevens High School in Edison, New Jersey with the class of 1973. Nancy’s first love was sewing - color, fabric, needles, and thread had been important elements in her life from an early age. So it was no surprise when she chose Hood College in Frederick, Maryland to pursue a degree in home economics (textiles), graduating in 1977.
During her time at Hood, an all-women’s school at the time, Nancy met the second love of her life, her husband Mike. He was a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. In those days, the Academy would host social “mixers,” giving mids an opportunity to interact with young ladies from local universities. It was at of these dances, in a scene straight out of the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, that Mike and his wingman picked up Nancy and her roommate. It was love at first sight for Mike - a love that would endure for over forty five years. Pretty good dance!
After graduating from the Naval Academy in June 1976, Mike began a 30 year career as a Submariner, and Nancy as a Navy Wife. The spouses of military professionals are a special lot, holding their families together while moving every few years to locations (some glamorous, some not) all over the world, separated from their partners for months at a time, and often putting their personal goals on the back burner. Nancy was a Navy Wife par excellence.
Nancy and Mike had two sons, Ed, born in November 1980 and Mike (not a junior), in January 1983. Nancy always wanted daughters, and she let her sons know that. Mike (not a junior) made it up to her by having two daughters himself. Nancy really loved those grandchildren, Eloise and Madeline. Not more than her sons. But it was close.
The family moved a lot – a dozen times over the 30 years. The boys were born and started school the Groton, Connecticut area, but also attended schools in Virginia (twice), Maryland, Hawaii, Italy, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Nancy raised her boys to be strong and independent, so when Nancy and Mike moved to a new assignment in the United Kingdom, Ed and Mike (not a junior), remained in the States to attend the University of Maryland (Ed) and Penn State (Mike). Nancy and Mike’s last move was to Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, where they remained following Mike’s final Navy job - teaching at the United States Army War College.
Throughout her life, Nancy was active in whatever activities would befit Ed and both Mikes. She was a PTSA president, a Band Booster, a Crew Club Booster, a Cub Scout Den Mother, a school library volunteer, and held various board positions in local Submarine Officer Wives Club chapters, the Boiling Springs Civic Association, and the Foundry Day Committee. Once Ed and Mike were old enough to take care of themselves, Nancy finally found some time to spend on herself. She worked at a framing studio in Hawaii (nearly taking her thumb off in the process) while starting a home business – Blue and Gold Embroidery – which she continued to operate over the years. She collected ceramics in Italy, taking trips up and down the peninsula to find the coolest stuff, and spent many hours seeking out the very finest fabrics for use in her creations.
Once her Navy-required moving days ended, Nancy really came into her own. Always creative and an exceptionally skilled seamstress, she made tongue-in-cheek embroidered aprons, transformed Indian sarees into striking tailored jackets, and created cute dresses for little girls. She combined her skills as a seamstress and embroiderer and created unique quilts to celebrate major life events of friends, family, and customers. She became an active member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, and sold her unique creations at craft shows across the northeast region. She also embedded herself in the Boiling Springs community, working with Mike to organize the Foundry Day craft show every spring and setting up the village’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony every fall.
After returning to Boiling Springs, Mike and Nancy built the home of their dreams on the edge of a cornfield. And Nancy decorated her new home with the same fashion sense that she used to create her unique saree jackets. The windows all have uniquely elegant, Nancy-created, drapes, and the wall paper and paint (all applied by Nancy) is different in each room. The home’s sunroom faces a corn field with views of both South and Blue Mountains. As Nancy gradually became more ill, she would spend most of her time in that room. She loved watching birds, but bluebirds in particular, rejoicing with each new brood and marveling at their vivid blue steaks across the corn field’s textured canvas of browns and greens. Nancy also treasured the magical twinkling light display created by fireflies each of the fifteen Junes she lived in her home.
When Ed was in preschool, Nancy went to a parent-teacher conference (Mike was away at sea for a few months). The teacher said that Ed was doing well, but she noted that Ed had a curiously adult vocabulary for such a young kid. “Well who else was I going to talk to when Mike is at sea?” Nancy reminisced years later. She was always with her sons. She set up Easter egg hunts, joined the PTSA, and took them to doctors’ appointments. She taught them multiplication and how to read. She drove them to baseball games, and basketball games, and tennis matches. She had to be the disciplinarian and the gentle, understanding parent. She taught them to be honest and kind… to be respectful (usually), and strong when needed. During her last few months, Nancy would repeat how happy she was that her children were able to make her proud, and that she had the time to get to know two beautiful granddaughters.
Nancy would want folks reading this abbreviated story of her life to know how well her sons had done. Ed, the better looking (but shorter and balder) of the two, is a chef. In October 2017, Ed married his slightly younger and MUCH more talented bride, Justine MacNeil. An incredibly talented pastry chef, Justine met Ed during their decade spent training and working in New York City. They recently relocated to Philadelphia and opened their first restaurant, Fiore, in the city’s Queen Village neighborhood. They serve relatable and delicious food, informed by their years of training, life experiences, and vacations (usually to Italy). There are two rules at Fiore: (1) you have to work hard, and(2) everyone is expected to be as kind and friendly as possible to the guests and their co-workers. Nancy did not get the opportunity to eat at the restaurant, but she did get to SEE it, travelling to Philadelphia even as her body had begun betraying her. And there is no doubt she would have really loved the restaurant that she indirectly helped Ed and Justine create. Ed is positive of that.
Mike (not a junior - also taller, and blessed with a full head of hair for a much larger percentage of his 20s) went to Penn State and became an advanced placement history teacher. While working at a high school in northern Virginia he met his future wife, Stephanie, who taught a literature class across the hall. After marrying, Mike and Stephanie each continued their own education, with Stephanie earning a Master’s in Library Sciences, and Mike a Ph.D in Learning Technology. Steph currently works for the Fairfax County, Virginia school district while Mike uses his unique skill set to design training protocols as a highly-respected government employee. Nancy treated her daughters-in-law like she would have her own daughters. She spent countless hours in that sunroom with Steph, teaching her to needle point and passing on her love of fabrics. Their daughters Eloise, 6, and Madeleine, 2, are cuter than one should be able to imagine. They both loved their Nanny and the unique quilted dresses they inspired her to create. Mike and Steph recently purchased a lovely home in Herndon, Virginia.
While Nancy’s life was defined by all of the things mentioned above, it would be inappropriate not mention her long, gallant, and inspiring fight against cancer. In late autumn2015 Nancy had been laboring with an unshakable cough, and had seen a couple of doctors who said that she was fine. Getting to the end of November, and starting to feel worse, Nancy met with a wonderful nurse practitioner who was concerned with her symptoms, especially the cough. Nancy was NEVER a smoker, so why the cough? An x-ray revealed a large, inoperable mass in her left lung. As the New Year dawned, Nancy had been diagnosed with the lung cancer that would ultimately take her life.
So, like any strong woman, like any fierce mother and devoted military wife would do, Nancy started fighting the cancer with tenacity. During the roughly three and a half years between her diagnosis and death, Nancy underwent three different chemotherapy treatments, two rounds of radiation therapy, participated in an immunotherapy clinical trial that resulted in FDA approval of a new cancer therapy, and was one the first 50 patients worldwide to test a new targeted therapy. She had pneumonitis and esophagitis resulting from her treatments, as well as a couple of pleural effusions related to her disease. She suffered through eight hospital stays in New York City, Baltimore, Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg with Mike by her side. She had three surgeries and two procedures, all of which required general anesthesia, and innumerable scans, sticks, prods, and blood draws. She met well over fifty doctors and even more nurses. Yet throughout this almost continuous series of opportunities to be miserable, she was consistently upbeat and pleasant to be around – always more concerned about being considerate of other people and supporting her friends and family than about her own plight.
In the end, Nancy survived longer than her doctors expected. More importantly, she lived long enough for Eloise to get to know her well. She also got to see bluebirds streaking across the morning sky, twinkling fireflies in the cornfield, and a fireworks display at Ed and Justine’s wedding. She was there for the birth of Madeline, she helped Ed and Justine work on their new home, and she got to see both Mike and Steph’s new home and Ed and Justine’s new restaurant. She made two trips to Disney World, went to the beach three times, went on a cruise, and drove along the coast of down-east Maine. And in her spare time, she helped researchers develop new treatments that she hoped one day would kick lung cancer’s ass once and for all. So who won the battle? Nancy remained unbowed until the end. Cancer may have defeated her body, but it never touched her mind or her indomitable spirit, which will remain with her family forever.
So, how do you end an obituary? It goes without saying that Nancy’s family will miss her. Both her dad and father-in-law are still with us (so it goes with cancer). Bill and Kate are Nancy’s siblings and have their own sons, daughters and husbands. Her father (Pop Pop to all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren) lost Nancy’s mother in 2011.
Mike is obviously crushed. Their marriage was a partnership. It was tough, and long, full of some REALLY cool ups and also some harder times. They were married for over forty three year - a remarkable achievement when you think about it. But it wasn’t long enough. Not for them, or anyone who knew them.
During her life, Nancy hiked to the top of a mountain in Wales; rode a gondola in the canals of Venice; went snorkeling in Guam; walked the streets of Edinburgh and Capri; drank with Yeoman Warders in the Tower of London; made her own limoncello and wood fired pizzas; lived in Hawaii, Italy, and England; visited Hong Kong, and Turkey, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, France, Austria, Japan, Canada, Scotland, Wales, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Guam, and many more; attended midnight mass at the Vatican; stood on the edge of an erupting volcano; cruised the Baltic Sea and the St. Lawrence river; camped in Yellowstone; drove across the United States; won $250 in nickels at a slot machine in Reno, Nevada (which must have been about 10 “7’s” in a row); sewed prom dresses for local high school students and a wedding dress for her niece; fearlessly drove a DODGE CARAVAN into downtown Rome; watched fireworks next to the White House; hiked the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, and gave birth to two really fine young men. Not bad for a kid from Baltimore.
Nancy led an incredible life. Her opportunities were not unique, but her devotion to making the best and the most out of her trials and experiences will stand as a model and lesson for her family for decades to come.
Nancy and Mike’s ashes will be buried at sea upon Mike’s passing – a fitting end for a Navy Wife and the man who has loved her for so long. In the nearer term, Nancy’s family will celebrate her life at Ed and Justine’s new restaurant, Fiore, in Philadelphia on Sunday July 14th from 3pm to 7pm. If you would like to help us party, please reach out to the restaurant by email at email@example.com.
Nancy was always impressed and grateful for the compassionate and dedicated care she received while undergoing chemo at UPMC Pinnacle’s Community Osteopathic Hospital in Harrisburg. With that in mind, we request that you make a small donation in Nancy’s name to the Pinnacle Health Foundation in lieu of flowers.
Pinnacle Health Foundation
PO Box 8700
Harrisburg, PA 17105