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Nancy Decker Dougherty passed away after long fight with Alzheimer's

Friday, February 8, 2013 | 4:53 p.m. CST; updated 3:59 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 9, 2013

Nancy Decker Dougherty passed away peacefully on February 6, 2013 at her home in Shelter Island, after a courageous 13-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Nancy was born and raised in Columbia, the daughter of Mildred Harrington Decker, President of the Missouri Chapter of the League of Women Voters for a time in the 1950’s and John Decker, a political science professor at Stevens College who went to Radcliffe College, graduating in 1961.

In the infancy of television in the 1950’s professor Decker’s Lecture Series was a popular feature of Columbia civic life.  The lecturers would stay at the Decker’s home on Rock Hill Road and Nancy had a lifelong, inspiring memory of Eleanor Roosevelt foregoing the privacy of her room upstairs to sit in the Decker living room chatting happily with young Nancy.

Nancy was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year at Radcliffe and upon graduation accepted President Mary Bunting’s offer to tour the country for a year with classmate Lucy Tuchman, daughter of author Barbara Tuchman, extolling the virtues of Radcliffe to high school girls.

She then studied for her master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley.

Nancy moved back east in 1971, marrying Jim Dougherty, current Supervisor of the Town of Shelter Island, and taking up residence in Manhattan.  Their Shelter Island home was a weekend getaway until 2001 when they moved there permanently.

Nancy was a film critic and writer of biographies.  She was honored by PEN America in 1987 with the PEN Girard Award for best non-fiction work by a previously unpublished female author.

Nancy is survived by her husband, Jim, brother Jack and sister-in-law Linda of Hawaii, niece Sarah, Jim’s nephew Terence and her four wonderful caregivers and loving friends of the past seven years, Germaine, Lita, Maka and Tamar.

For those who wish, donations may be made to The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, NH, where Nancy was a writer in residence, or to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.


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