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Nancy Thum

Amazing woman with deep community roots

The many, many friends of Nancy Thum, a Claremont resident for more than 40 years, concur with that assessment of the woman who put an extraordinary amount of quality into the 73 years of her life that ended on March 24, 2012 at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte.

Nancy Brunton Thum was born to Laurence and Laura Brunton in Charlottesville, Virginia on January 30, 1939. She was a graduate of Lane High School in Charlottesville in 1957, continued with a bachelor’s degree in English from Radcliffe College at Harvard and then a master’s degree in education from the Harvard School of Education in 1963.

Married to Charles Wesley Thum, MD, in 1961, the Thums came to Claremont in the early 1970s.

Her professional activities included teaching positions and in-service programs in public schools in Newton, Massachusetts and volunteer teaching positions at a Department of Defense School at Yongston Post in Seoul, Korea and at a DOD school at Fort Eustis, Virginia. She was a teacher at Sycamore and Vista Elementary Schools in Claremont. She taught both summer school and regular classes at Foothill Country Day School before becoming head of school there from 1991 through 1996.

Mrs. Thum was involved in a wide scope of volunteer activities in the community over the years. Those included serving on boards of directors of Stone Children’s Library, the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University and the Mt. San Antonio Gardens Board and Admissions Committee.

She was very active in the Foothill Philharmonic Committee where she served as membership chair, in various offices for the Curtain Raisers, the Claremont Rotary Club and Friends of Oak Park Cemetery where she served as president for 2 years. At Claremont Presbyterian Church, she was a Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder, chair of the Stewardship Drive in 1997 and member of the Investment and Personnel, Renovation and Smale Committees. She was also a 20-year member of the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Foundation Board.

Volunteer activities in the Claremont schools included serving on the Committee for Facilities Assessment, a number of Parent Faculty Association offices and committees at Condit Elementary, El Roble Intermediate and Claremont High School. She also found time to be a football booster at Claremont McKenna College.

What she considered her “treasures in life” were time with her family, driving her 1954 MG-TF, traveling, reading, writing (she had published 4 short plays), gardening, walking, swimming and, in earlier years, camping and skiing.

Longtime close friend Anita Hughes reflects, “Nancy was an amazing lady. In living life to the fullest with grace and dignity while facing the ultimate, she set the ‘bar’ for all of us. She taught us all lessons on living and dying. She was a true friend and sister who will be greatly missed.”

Linda Des Marais recalls meeting Mrs. Thum through the Shakespeare Club.

“She was delightful and brilliant. She was able to pry me away from my Netflix and into the theater. She was a model to everyone, and I am so pleased to have had her as my friend,” Mr. Des Marais notes.

Shelley Randles worked with Mrs. Thum in the Curtain Raisers organization.

She reflects, “She was eloquent and gracious and kind. She commanded respect and attention in a good way.”

Among a myriad of friends, Claremonter Frank Hungerford offers, “If I could get 4 people to be on the world’s toughest quiz show, Nancy would be the top choice. She was interested in everything and knowledgeable about most of it.”

Claremont Counselor Ed Aluzas, who met Mrs. Thum at Claremont Presbyterian Church, remembers a “very upbeat and adventuresome person: She loved to travel and was committed and loyal to family and her friends.”

Eleanor Pierson, a longtime colleague at Foothill Country Day School remembers Mrs. Thum’s years as head of the school as a time when “she did a remarkable job. She oversaw a lot of improvements to the facility and was very solid, very steady and very intelligent. She was a role model for all of us.”

Friend Nora Butler remembers “a delightful lady who was interested in what seemed to me to be everything. She stayed in charge. She conducted her life in such an admirable way.”

Paula Pitzer was also a colleague at Foothill Country Day. She remembers Mrs. Thum driving a tractor at the school during extensive renovation projects at the campus, and also as being “a strong and disciplined person. She was very warm and did a fine job of emphasizing academics at Foothill Country Day.”

The Rev. John Najarian knew Mrs. Thum and recalls in particular that Mrs. Thum faced her illness and death with a great deal of poise. “Visiting with her during her illness was an elixir for the people who did,” the former minister of Claremont Presbyterian Church notes.

Friends and also traveling companions for more than 40 years, former Claremont residents John and Lyn Roth recall their sons being toddlers together.

“Things that stand out about Nancy were her deep, deep roots in the Claremont community. She was a real pillar while being a very companionable person who lived life as fully as one can. She made the most of it.”

Mrs. Roth recalls sharing teaching duties at Sycamore and appreciating her efforts there. “She was recognized as an educator and also served as superintendent of the Sunday school program at CPC [Claremont Presbyterian Church[.”

Mrs. Thum is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Peter Thum and Cara Buono of Manhattan, New York City; by her daughter, Laura Ann Thum of San Diego; by her brother and sister-in-law, Laurence and Amy Brunton of San Diego; and by her sister-in-law, Judy F. Thum of Encinitas.

A memorial service for Mrs. Thum will be held on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 2:30 p.m. at Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave.

Mrs. Thum’s family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in memory of her to the pancreatic cancer research program of Dr. Vincent Chung, who was her oncologist at the City of Hope. Donations should include a note to that effect and be sent to City of Hope, Attn: Joe Komsky, 1055 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017.

—Pat Yarborough

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