Bidding farewell to a former YWCA favorite

Posted June 25, 2010, at 8:54 p.m.

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amily and friends will meet at 11:30 a.m. today at Mount Hope Cemetery for a graveside burial and ceremony for Nancy Savage, who was 86 when she died on Dec. 14 at the home of a niece in Baton Rouge, La.

Attendees will gather afterward at the Muddy Rudder Restaurant in Brewer.

Nancy Savage had one of the most distinctive can-do attitudes of anyone I’ve known.

She was a much-loved, hard-working member of the former Bangor-Brewer Young Women’s Christian Association staff, serving as its health, physical education and recreation director. She was a former resident of Bangor, Salisbury Cove and West Palm Beach, Fla.

One thing about Nancy: You always recognized her voice.

“NAN-cy SAV-age, here,” she would say, strongly emphasizing, with a very distinctive lilt, the first syllable of each name. You just had to smile when you heard it.

According to “The First 75 Years: A History of the Bangor-Brewer Young Women’s Christian Association 1914-1989,” written by Julie Eaton of Bangor, Nancy was with the YWCA from 1957 to 1980.

Julie has many fond memories of Nancy, not only from writing the YWCA history, published in 1990, but through her personal connection with Nancy.

“I reread my part about Nancy,” Julie said of the book, “and I was as impressed now as I was then with how she snaggled good, young swimmers and turned them into lifeguards.”

Julie also recalled, “One particular day with my little Nancy and little George, when we dragged in, and I must have looked tired, because Nancy saw us coming and said, ‘Well, here comes Old Mother Eaton,’ and that’s just what I felt like!”

During Nancy’s early years, swim classes were taught at the Bangor YMCA on Hammond Street, until the YWCA opened the Means Pool in 1971.

In 2008, the YWCA and Bangor YMCA, after working cooperatively for years, officially merged to become the Bangor Y.

Kathy Perry Gillespie is director of youth and child care services for the Bangor Y.

“I was born in 1960,” Kathy said, “and I remember Nancy, in the pool, teaching swimming lessons. She had a booming voice, and it was a little scary for kids.”

But, she added, “[Nancy] was just such a big part of the Y, that if you said Nancy Savage, you thought of the Y.”

And Kathy also recalled Nancy’s work with Special Olympics and children with special needs, and the many other programs she oversaw.

In the YWCA history, Julie Eaton wrote, “Enough cannot be said in praise of Nancy Savage and her abilities. She taught hundreds of boys and girls in Bangor to swim [and] trained volunteer lifeguards among the women who brought their children to her classes. She believed in volunteers.

“Volunteers were the strength of her swimming programs. The YW could not have afforded to pay all the lifeguards it took to meet the safety requirements” of those programs, so she recruited and trained those she needed.

Among them was Polly Barron of Hampden, who recalled it was Nancy “who pushed me to review my [American Red Cross] lifesaving badge, and then pushed me” to take the water safety instructor’s test, so she could teach with Nancy.

“We did it on a volunteer basis,” Polly said, which worked out well for her because it met her volunteer requirements for membership in the Junior League of Bangor.

“Nancy was a great encourager, as far as I’m concerned,” Polly said. “She was great to me, and I just enjoyed her immensely.”

In addition to helping launch the Bangor-Brewer YWCA Encore Program for mastectomy patients, Nancy also is credited with beginning its many popular day camp programs, such as Camp Goodtimes she started in 1960 with Val Constantine, which later became Camp Molly Molasses.

Nancy Savage will be missed and fondly remembered by everyone whose life she touched.

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Five days remain to vote to help Jennifer Hoyt Huerth of Hampden bring her Don’t Bully ME project to your community through the Pepsi Refresh Project, which will award $5,000 each to the top 10 finishers from among 1,175 submissions.

Jennifer told her story in this column on June 9, explaining she was a victim of bullying when she was young.

To help bring her presentation to 25 Maine schools this year, visit www.refresheverything.com/dontbullyme and cast your vote once each day.

You can learn more about this project at her Facebook group, Don’t Bully ME, or follow her on Twitter.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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