Obituary : Nancy Leighton
Nancy Leighton, nee Nancy Brown, of Edgartown, died on April 15 at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, after a brief illness.
Nancy was born on July 17, 1930, to Dugald and Edith Brown. The daughter of a research scientist, she took after her father's natural curiosity about animals and environments. Using this inherited gift, she would spend a lifetime absorbing all manner of information, making herself into a virtual encyclopedia of life sciences. In later years, her grandchildren would infuriate her daughters by never accepting any scientific statement as a fact unless Nancy had first confirmed it. To them, it seemed, "Grammy" was the final arbiter of scientific data.
Nancy spent her childhood in numerous locations, because of her father's profession. After high school, she attended Boston University's Sergeant College, where she met her husband, Sam Leighton. She graduated from Boston University in 1952, and attended her 50-year alumni reunion in 2002. Immediately following graduation, she married Sam and began a life on Martha's Vineyard.
After moving to the Vineyard, Nancy took a job as a physical education teacher at the Edgartown Public School. After a few years in Edgartown, she became a second grade teacher at the Oak Bluffs Public School. She held that position for many years until she retired in the late 1980s. As a teacher, she was well known for having animals in her classroom and for her focus on science experiments. Even in her home, visiting children could always find a stalk of celery soaking up food coloring to show its veins, or a terrarium off in the corner with a complete food chain inside.
Teaching and working with children was a great love of Nancy's life. Whether she was teaching formally in her classroom, providing an explanation to an inquisitive child on the beach, or exploring a problem in a quiet moment with one of her six grandchildren, Nancy was always helping someone to explore the world around them. That is perhaps because she never ceased to explore the world herself.
One way that Nancy sought to fulfill her appetite for knowledge was through reading. If one were to look at a book in the Edgartown Public Library, there was a good chance that they might find the name Nancy Leighton scrawled across an old card. She frequented the library, taking out many books at a time, and always having to return for new ones sooner than she expected. Her love of reading stretched across genres and across time, from science fiction to historical novels and from the classics to books chronicling new findings in biology. She shared the knowledge gained in these books with people on a daily basis, constantly recalling a pertinent fact from some book or magazine article and scurrying off to locate the work for someone she thought would be interested.
She would also share her love of reading with friends, with whom she often traded books and suggestions for future library trips. Nancy painstakingly and lovingly passed the love of reading on to her grandchildren, many of whom learned to read one patient moment at a time sitting at Nancy's kitchen table.