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Shelter Island Reporter obituary: Nancy Graham

Nancy Graham, a resident of Shelter Island, died peacefully on Feb. 2, 2021 at San Simeon by the Sound, while recovering from hip surgery.

Nancy had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for the last four years of her life and had been a resident of The Bristal Assisted Living Facility prior to her death.

Nancy Graham

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. in 1930 to James and Helen Doran, Nancy was raised in a loving home by her mother, a schoolteacher, and her father, who worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines as a child and later became Burgess of ,Parson Borough in Pennsylvania.

Nancy’s only brother, Bernard, was killed in Korea while serving in the Korean War.

After attending College Misericordia in Pennsylvania, Nancy set out to see the world, arriving in Brooklyn, N.Y. in the 1950’s where she worked as a dietician at Long Island College Hospital, and was later admitted to St. John’s Law School, Class of 1959. She was one of only two women in the class and was always proud to be a trailblazer in the legal profession.

Nancy met the love of her life, James (Jim) Graham, at St. John’s Law School, and the two were married in 1959. Jim became a labor lawyer and Nancy worked as a social worker while the family was living in Brooklyn Heights.

In 1968, Nancy and Jim moved to Tucson, Ariz. with their young family where Jim was offered a teaching position at University of Arizona Law School. Jim taught civil rights law and was involved in the War on Poverty.

In Arizona, Nancy’s beloved husband became ill and passed away in 1971 at 41 years of age. Nancy moved back East with her three young children and settled back in Brooklyn. She put her legal degree to work and began serving with Advocates for Children, a child advocacy organization, and later set up her own law practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She also worked as a volunteer with the Park Slope Civic Council and was a Board Member of New York Methodist Hospital.

A respected member of the community, she always had time to help her neighbors and friends in any way she could as a trusted neighborhood attorney.

Nancy heard about idyllic Shelter Island from other Brooklyn friends and, with two other families, decided to rent a big rambling home in the Heights in July1985.  That followed with rentals each year on the Island until Nancy chose to live full time here 20 years ago. 

Her later years found her a wonderful companion in Joe Murphy, who was introduced to her by her friend, Mimi Brennan. Nancy and Joe were volunteers at Mashomack Preserve and enjoyed welcoming visitors each week to the Conservancy.  She and Joe were regulars at the local restaurants where they were treated as honored guests. 

Nancy’s health suffered with the onset of Alzheimer’s, but it never took away her smile, her laugh, or her love of life. She was well cared for at The Bristal and San Simeon, and the family is ever grateful for the kindness of the staff at those facilities, who work in difficult jobs, especially during the COVID crisis.

Nancy is survived by her three sons, Bernard, James and Justin; three daughters-in-law, Rosemary, Julia and Pam; and her three grandchildren, Brendan, Aidan and Alexandra, each of whom she adored. 

Donations in Nancy’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association, National Processing Center, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, D.C. 20090-6011.