If you are a parent, or a grandparent, or a great-parent, or even a child yourself, you couldn’t wish for a better role model than Nancy Hiller.
She was hard as nails. Smart. Creative. A terrific writer. A renowned cabinetmaker. A decent, moral, sensitive human being.
Nancy Hiller wouldn’t take shit from anybody. She didn’t judge, but she had an unerring moral compass. And when you shook her hand, you knew she’d lived a life working with wood and tools.
She appeared on my radio program, Big Talk, a number of times through the years. Each time, she’d talk about her latest book. And each time she’d reveal another layer of the rich life she’d lived.
She taught herself how to work with wood. Someone close to her told her she was wasting her time. She took that as a challenge. After attending trade school in London, she took a job as a laborer at one of the United Kingdom’s military museums, creating dioramas and displays. There, she worked with rough-hewn craftsmen, all males of course, who baptized her by verbal fire. But she never backed down from them, giving as well as she got. They came to respect her.
She studied religion in college after she’d moved to the US. The academic life didn’t exactly thrill her so she fell back on that which she knew best and turned that craft into an art. Her furniture, her bookshelves, her cabinets, her kitchens, her living rooms, were warm and bold, just as she was.
I hadn’t seen Nancy for a long while. The pandemic and pancreatic cancer kept her home. That’s where she died yesterday. Her husband, Marc Longacre, himself a noble human, announced the news yesterday.
The world is s bit diminished today without her in it.
A remembrance from Lost Art Press
Her Instagram page
- Shop Tales: The Animals Who Help Us Make Things Work
- Kitchen Think
- English Arts & Crafts Furniture
- Making Things Work: Tales from a Cabinetmaker’s Life
- The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History
- A Home of Her Own
A couple of her Big Talk appearances:
My profile of her for Limestone Post magazine: