Nancy Crown spent her final days trying to make America a better place.
Crown, 54, a Bank of America senior vice president in Charlotte, died unexpectedly Saturday.
On June 7, she was featured in a Charlotte Observer story on how she and her three sisters created a website to send a grass-roots message to politicians: Agree to disagree, but cooperate, compromise and solve the challenges facing our nation.
Two days later, she and daughter, Molly, 17, and son, Sam, 14, left Charlotte for a reunion in California. They hiked on Friday, laughed, reconnected with friends.
But by Saturday night, word began to filter back to Charlotte that Crown had died suddenly.
Sunday morning, at the 8 a.m. service that Crown rarely missed, the Rev. Amanda Robertson, associate rector at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, told the congregation of her death.
The reaction was shock, heartbreak, Robertson said. “But at the same time, gratitude for having just known this woman and the force that she was … and the difference she was making.”
I knew Nancy Crown as the mother of Molly, who plays on the high school soccer team I coach. She’s the mom who always quietly volunteered to help, who sent notes of thanks, who coordinated every season-end team party.
I know she identified herself most as the loving mother of Molly and Sam. Until this past week, though, I didn’t fully understand the scope of Crown’s contributions to others.
She’s one of the people who volunteered countless hours on nights and weekends, attempting to make Charlotte a better place for all people. Crown was active in her church, had served on the board of Smart Start, a program aimed at preparing kids for kindergarten, and was a Charlotte Housing Authority commissioner, among other efforts.
“She was that voice that educated me, who asked the right questions that kept us on track,” said Shirley Fulton, former Mecklenburg County Superior Court judge and now a CHA commissioner. “When there was development, she was one of the ones always asking, ‘How many units are affordable housing?’ ”
In last week’s Observer story, Crown recounted how she was pacing her kitchen, lamenting the country’s political acrimony.
“What are we going to do?” she asked aloud.
“Well,” her son, Sam, replied, “what are you going to do?”
Crown’s response was what those who knew her came to expect. She acted. She and her sisters – Jane, 55, Susan, 52, and Mary, 51 – all followed politics closely and shared group texts in frustration at the latest issues polarizing America. Together, after Sam’s challenge, the sisters created BridgethePoliticalDivide.com.
Their website reminds us of the values of compromise and cooperation to arrive at a workable solution even when loud voices disagree.
“Compromise is in very short supply in Washington, D.C.,” Crown narrates over a short video she produced for the website on the advice of Erskine Bowles, former White House chief of staff. “If we want things to change, we need to send a message to Washington. Let’s help our country once again become an example of democracy at its best.”
Bowles, upon hearing of Crown’s death, emailed: “She left here having done her dead level best to make our country whole again. She gave it her all. No one else could do more.”
The family’s hope is that the website will catch on, maybe even go viral. That politicians will listen. That Nancy Crown’s last great initiative will help make America a better place.
If you are so moved, the family encourages, go to BridgethePoliticalDivide.com.
In lieu of flowers, they suggest, sign the petition.
A memorial service for Nancy Crown will be at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church, 2701 Park Road, at 3 p.m. Tuesday with a reception to follow the service.