Verna Nance of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, passed away in her home, surrounded by loved ones, on Jan. 6, 2020, following a brief illness. Friends and family are invited to celebrate her life at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Echo Hill Presbyterian Church, 9000 C Ave., Marion, Iowa. Visitation will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at Cedar Memorial Funeral Home in Cedar Rapids.
Survivors include her son, Danny Ray Nance of Des Moines; daughter, Nancy Ruth (Robert) Knutson of Porter, Okla.; daughter, Pamela Sue (Rick) Zehr of Iowa City; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 69 years, Bobby Ray (Bob) Nance.
Verna Ruth Whittington was born at home in Francis Okla., "the week of Oct. 16," later to be designated Oct. 21, 1927. As a toddler, her family frequently relocated, following her father's employment as an oil driller. She was born the eldest daughter of six children, and often was left in charge of the house and her siblings. She made sure all were fed, clothes were washed and ironed, and the garden tended. Verna graduated from Ada High School in 1946, and attended East Central College. She worked nights at the local bus station, singlehandedly cooking for and serving busloads of customers. Verna met Bobby Ray at the age of 16 in summer 1944. In spite of curlers in her hair and a paint brush in her hand, Bob was smitten. They dated long distance until Bob graduated from Oklahoma A&M (Oklahoma State) in Stillwater. They were united in marriage on Aug. 14, 1948, two weeks after Bob began employment in Ada, Okla., at KADA radio station.
Verna was self-employed as a "homemaker." Responsibilities included supporting her husband throughout his career, which often required long stretches away from home, raising three children and tending to their home and garden. She put her faith in action as a deacon of Kenwood Park Presbyterian Church. She became a liaison for numerous nursing homes, celebrating birthdays, delivering day-old doughnuts (collected daily at 5 a.m.), and providing much-needed companionship. She was assigned to a bereavement course at St. Luke's Hospital, one of the first nonclergy to attend. Verna also seasonally decorated the sanctuary with her friend Bernice Smith, balancing on ladders and pew tops to drape garlands. She worked with special-needs children and was a strong supporter of Camp Courageous. Hobbies included planting and tending the family garden: produce was canned, pickled and frozen, providing (delicious) food year-round. Verna loved to paint, and applied those skills to every room of their church education building and the homes of several elderly friends. Bob recalled returning from a business trip to find their house a different color. Her favorite hobby was fishing. In their early years of marriage, she often caught dinner from the nearby creek. She particularly enjoyed fishing trips to Canada, often taking the prize for landing the biggest fish.
Bob and Verna hosted farm trips to Australia, New Zealand and South America, visiting with farmers and learning new practices. The family enjoyed supporting the Cedar Rapids baseball team. Verna became known to the players as the "cake lady," but she also gathered household goods to help furnish their apartments, entertained visiting parents and hosted the players for home-cooked meals. Her support and service to the club was recognized in 2014 by her induction to the Cedar Rapids Baseball Hall of Fame. Verna embodied by example, "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did unto me." The family takes comfort knowing she was warmly greeted by Christ, and walking once again with the love of her life. Her love, compassion and humor will be missed.
Memorials in her name may be directed to Camp Courageous at 12007 190th St. Monticello, IA 52310; or Iowa City Hospice at 1025 Wade St., Iowa City IA 52240. Online condolences may be directed to the family at www.cedarmemorial.com under obituaries.