After a full and generous life, Nancy Ryland Williamson died at her home in Pine Bluff on September 14, 2013, at the age of 97. She was born on July 5, 1916, in Pine Bluff, Ark., the second of four children of Virginia Hudson and James Robert Ryland. She was an excellent student and graduated at the age of 16 from Pine Bluff High School with the class of 1933. Not wanting to increase her family’s financial stress during the Depression, she chose to forgo a college education and instead took a secretarial course at Judkin’s Business College. She spent the next seven years working at Arkansas Oak Flooring in Pine Bluff, which she always said was an education in itself. She had fond memories of attending the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, trying escargot in New York City on a business trip, and a “working girls” vacation to Miami, during which, on the spur of the moment, she and a girl friend flew by Pan Am seaplane to Havana, Cuba, for the weekend.
A new phase of her life began on September 14, 1940, when she married a Pine Bluff attorney, C. Frank Williamson. Frank became an FBI agent in 1942, and Nancy received another form of education during their assignments in Des Moines, Cleveland, and Denver. In 1946, the Williamsons returned to Pine Bluff where Nancy was involved in the education and activities of her son and two daughters. She enjoyed sewing and needlework and made many items for her home and for herself and her daughters to wear, as well as special little dresses for her granddaughters.
An enthusiastic learner, an avid reader, and patron of the arts, she was energetically involved in the civic and community life of Pine Bluff. She was an active supporter and leader in many Pine Bluff organizations, including the League of Women Voters, the Junior Auxiliary (later the Junior League), the Junior Sesame Club, Synergy Forum, Symphony Orchestra, community concerts, and the Little Firehouse Museum (later the SE Arkansas Arts Center). In 1995, her gift to the Arkansas Community Foundation established the Bridge Fund, which continues to provide support for Arkansas history projects and for scholarships for students from Jefferson County.
Nancy was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church where she devoted many hours working in the Sunday school, the church library, and in various capacities with the Women of the Church, including president. For her years of service, the Presbyterian Women awarded her an Honorary Life Membership.
She was a fourth-generation Arkansan, with a great interest in and respect for her forebears. She served as family historian, compiling information on several branches of the family and helping to maintain the Hudson Family Cemetery. She was active in The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America, serving as president of the Arkansas Society and being elected to the National Society’s Role of Honor.
Nancy and Frank enjoyed playing duplicate bridge with the Bluffers Club, socializing with their supper club friends, and getting away to New Orleans for good music and good food. In retirement, they traveled around the U. S. and the world, including the Panama Canal and South America, the South Pacific, Australia, the Middle East and Europe. Her notebooks with details from these trips are treasured by the family. She was a good letter writer all of her life, even taking up e-mail at the age of 80. Among favorite family memories are the summers spent at a cottage in Camden, Maine, where her grandchildren put on elaborate performances and where their Nana joined in their games and tried to teach them all to knit. Nancy and Frank enjoyed 56 years of married life until his death in October 1996.
She was also preceded in death by a daughter, Anne Koskinen, two sisters, Marion Love and Martha Jarvis, and one brother, Robert Ryland. She is survived by a son, Frank Williamson, Jr., and his wife Sandra of Pittsburgh, a daughter, Martha W. Rimmer and her husband Tom of Little Rock, son-in-law Jim Koskinen of Grafton, Mass., two granddaughters, Nancy Rimmer (Albert Suh) and Virginia Rimmer Herrmann (Jason), a grandson, Matthew Koskinen (Amy), and four great-grandchildren, Gabriel and Anne Koskinen, Benjamin Suh, and Henry Herrmann, as well as many nieces and nephews.
The family is very grateful to her loving caregivers over the last few years, especially Linda Barringer, who helped her to live independently.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m., Friday, September 20, 2013 at First Presbyterian Church with Reverend Susan Carter Wiggins officiating. A reception will follow in McColgan Hall at First Presbyterian Church. Burial will be private. Visitation will be Thursday evening from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. at Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Directors (online register: www.ralphrobinsonandson.com).
Memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund, 717 West 32nd Avenue, Pine Bluff, Ark. 71603 or the Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Library, 200 East 8th Avenue, Pine Bluff, Ark. 71601.