Newsletter | Jul/Aug 2006

OWA Member Nan Croley (1939 – 2006)

"All this our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything." -William Shakespeare

Nan Croley was born May 28, 1939. She lived in Cleveland, Ohio the only child of English parents, Rose and Preston Croley. Growing up Nan was a Girl Scout, an athlete, an academic, a singer, a yearbook editor, and a student government leader. As a multi-talented National Merit Finalist, Nan could have attended a more prestigious university, but family finances precluded that. She graduated from Lake Erie College, a women's college in Painesville, Ohio. She studied painting, art history, and theater. Nan spent her junior year studying in Dijon, France.

In 1963, Nan married Nate Horowitz, a jazz musician she had known in high school. They lived in NYC during the Beat Movement. After their divorce, Nan took the unusual step, for that time, to go back to school; she graduated from the Pratt Institute, School of Architecture in the early 1970's. Three decades later Nan wrote, "finding and sticking with architecture after floating through the first 30 years of my life is one of the accomplishments I am most proud of."

One of Nan's first jobs as an architect was designing brownstone apartment renovations in Manhattan. However, she returned to Lake Erie College as an instructor in theater scene design and as a gallery director. A few years ago Nan confided that it was difficult for women to find work in architecture at that time.

While on the faculty at Lake Erie College she met her longtime partner, an engineer named Chet Ward. In 1982 Nan and Chet moved to Gasquet, a small town along the Smith River east of Crescent City, California. In Del Norte County Nan lived the life of a river rafter and outdoors person.

In 1984 Nan came to San Francisco to practice architecture. She joined OWA the following year and through the organization found housing and met colleagues. She lived in the Mission and North Beach and then purchased a multi-unit building on Polk Street. While living in the city she immersed herself in its cultural offerings. She also loved to travel and collect fine art, crafts, jewelry, pottery, and rugs from local artisans.

From 1985-87 Nan was on the OWA Steering Committee. She wrote an article for the April 1987 newsletter tilted: On Connecting. "Ideas can flow from a variety of settings. It's not so much the specific programs or events sponsored by OWA that are important but the fact of its being there as a focal point for women to come together and act together ", she wrote.

Nan planned and participated in many OWA events. Last September at the OWA retreat Nan helped with the Calder-like mobile making project at Westerbeke Ranch. In December she volunteered along with other OWA members to work on the Master Planning Services for the ranch.

In the early 1990's Chet Ward became ill and Nan traveled the seven hours to Gasquet each month to be with him. When he died in 1994, Nan set-up the annual Chet Ward Scholarship with a local environmental group, The Friends of Del Norte. Nan was also active with environmental group, The Smith River Alliance, opposing a nickel mine threatening the river.

In 2000, Nan began to remodel the cabin in Gasquet. It was her retreat and she loved to entertain there. The views from the deck were breathtaking of the pristine turquoise Smith River below. Later that year Gasquet resident, Judson Brohmer and his two terriers became Nan's companions.

Back in San Francisco, Nan was working on challenging projects and said she was thriving and enjoying her confidence and abilities as an architect. For 14 years she happily worked for John Mathews Architects in San Mateo. At this small firm she found respect, kindness, and closeness with her colleagues. About working in architecture she said, "You need a situation which encourages and allows your creative contribution, but you need to push too. You have to add your voice, look for opportunities, and defend your ideas." Nan Croley died on March 23, 2006.

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