Today we are sad and grateful — sad, for on Feb. 24 we lost a good friend, colleague, and mentor. But we are also grateful — grateful for the many blessings Nancylee Ziese brought to us, to her students at Kirkwood, to her colleagues in social work, therapy, and teaching, and for her service and advocacy impacting the families she worked with and the citizens of Iowa.
Nancylee was strong and committed in her support of women and children, and she was fearless in taking on the political, legal, bureaucratic and legislative obstacles she found along the way if she believed they were hurting people or could be made more effective. Nancylee was a loving spouse, mother and grandma, and we know that her grandson, Deegan, was the light of her life.
We met when Nancylee came to teach human services and sociology courses at Kirkwood or through her community work. She informed her teaching with her years of experience in family practice. She helped her students to understand how important it is, especially in social work, to understand the advocacy role — to care about the greater community around us and to be an informed activist for those who perhaps could not speak for themselves. Through some 40 boards and organizations, from her early days on school board in Sioux City, to such work as her appointment to the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission or her volunteering with the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary, Iowans for Gun Safety, PEO Chapter IH, and the Iowa Breast Cancer Action Foundation, Nancylee lived her life’s philosophy and her teaching.
Nancylee was always connecting people to each other, to services, to organizations and to information. So, typical of Nancylee, a few years ago, she saw a mutual friend hurting and suggested that we start meeting her for lunch. We called ourselves “The Ladies of the Flower.” We wore a lapel flower or flower pin each month when we got together and chuckled with each other when we forgot. We listened to each other, we laughed, we learned from each other and we became stronger in our own lives by the bond we created together.
We will think of Nancylee Ziese when the first brave purple hyacinth struggles to emerge into a new spring and when the last defiant chrysanthemum of November faces the killing frost — both perennials — because Nancylee was the first to step forward, the last to give up in a righteous cause, and could be counted on, perennially, to be always ready to stand up. We learned so much from her.
Yes, we are sad, but, oh so, so grateful. We know that her advocacy, her caring, her determination and her laughter will live on in us all. Thank you, Nancylee Ziese, for your life well-lived. You have truly been a difference-maker.
The Ladies of the Flower:
Dr. Julianne Thomas
Kathleen Van Steenhuyse