by Marusca Niccolini (Nancy’s Granddaughter)
My earliest memory of my grandmother Nancy Kearing was visiting her apartment when I was about 3 or 4 years old in Chinatown New York. She lived in a loft style apartment on the third floor of a building that had been converted into lofts from a mosque or church of sorts. She had to go through an arduous process to be accepted as a tenant because the landlord, Pat, was superstitious. She had to probably conduct a seance to let her in the building. It’s a wonder she let her in.
The loft was beautiful. The windows on the North side of the building were alternating between arcs from floor to ceiling and circles in the top. The abundant natural light made the front half of the loft suitable for her artwork which was large scale oil and acrylic paintings on canvas and sometimes paper.
The open kitchen separated the apartment from the living quarters where she had an original Eames table and chairs, a sofa bed and a queen size bed on a platform in the corner. It was quite the setup for a single woman.
Some of my earliest childhood memories, beyond my mother washing me in the sink in our apartment in Bronxville, a suburb of Manhattan, were rolling around on a canvas with paint in my grandmother's apartment. She adored me - and I her.
There was a fantastic playground across the street from the building on Forsyth and Grand that she would take me to. I found out later that that particular park was originally a failing city park that had been overtaken by drug users and criminals. My grandmother had campaigned to change that park into a playground, and succeeded in the late 1970s. My sister was born in 1976 and I’m certain that her newfound love of her first grandchild motivated her to make an effort to change the neighborhood - but she did.
Nancy had a heart for social activism for sure and she was also well educated and entrepreneurial. She obtained a degree in social work, and prior to that she was in the first freshman class that permitted women at Yale University. At Yale, she studied with Josef Albers where she was awarded the Bruce Rogers Scholarship in graphics. Later she studied with Richard Pousette-Dart, Leo Manzo and Bruce Dorfman at the Art Students League. She went on to work with I.M. Pei and Partners Architects and then established her own design firm.
Nancy Kearing had countless art shows over the years at the Atlantic Gallery in Manhattan, painted murals on the walls of restaurants in midtown Manhattan and consulted with home design projects in Aspen, Colorado for her clients.
I called Nancy Nana. Nana’s father died and it hurt her tremendously. She always had a dream of living on the farm, so she bought the house next door to her father’s house that was abutted to the family apple orchard and renovated it to include an art studio.
In the early 1900s, Nancy’s father was a successful doctor - the head of the hospital at Ridgewood. He purchased a farm in Warwick, New York. With the help of her other four siblings, they planted apple trees all over the land on the family farm. Everyone planted the trees.
Now, that family farm is a regular tourist attraction in the area in the fall where people can go apple picking. Doctor Hull donated his time to the Fellowship Community. Nancy learned about it at a young age and decided then that she would sign up on a life long waiting list to be part of the community when she became eligible.
Nana continued to live in her house in Warwick and prepare for art shows. Her last show was at the Katonah Museum and she was in attendance. Shortly after, she moved into the Rudolf Steiner Community. She wanted to be there and she was there when she passed. I am just her granddaughter saying it is hard for me to let her go.
She contributed more to her community than I can memorialize. Her life story is beautiful and everyone in your community should know that she loved every one of you with her fullest heart. Thank you for being there for my grandmother. She was my sounding board and my rock. I will miss her forever.
To make a gift to the Fellowship Community in honor of Hanna Sohnrey please visit