Nancy Jean Airey: January 23, 1943 – May 6, 2016
By Bret Shawn Clark, Compiled by Don Bayley
ENGLEWOOD, Fla. – Family and friends of Nancy Jean Airey gathered Saturday afternoon (July 9, 2016) at the Green Street Church, the site of many of the stage productions of her plays, to pay tribute to Airey, a prolific writer, musician, historian, community organizer, mentor to local authors, webmaster to non-profits and friend to a number of causes which, much like she herself was to the Englewood community, near and dear to her heart.
The gathering featured those wishing to express their thoughts at the passing of a stalwart Englewood resident, in word as well as song, from the wide array of organizations and people whose lives she enriched by her lifetime of good deeds and contributions to the culture of this sleepy seaside town, including those from Englewood Pioneer Days, the Suncoast Writers Guild (together with “Englewood’s Little “Band” of Writers who performed works from one of her plays), Lemon Bay Historical Society, and Friends of the Elsie Quirk Library.
Guitarist and vocalist Linda Lou Lewis of the aforementioned Little Band described what it was like to work with Airey in mixing music into her stage plays, adding that Jean Airey was “the best collaborative partner I ever had.” Roy Ault of the Writers Guild gave a heartfelt thank you to the woman who helped him to become a published author, while Kari Burgess spoke of her adventures in acting with Jean as the director of material that she herself also authored.
Erick Phelps, coordinator of the Englewood Pioneer Days parade, of which Jean Airey was an integral part, said that one of the things about her that he will miss most was her “principled focus on what needed to be done” for the Englewood community, including events such as Pioneer Days, the organizers of which, according to Phelps, had to recruit three people to take over the work she did for the committee.
Her widower, William Airey, told yet another revealing story about his late wife, who years earlier had organized a fund raiser for the Heart Association (featuring comedian Paul Lind) at which heart surgeons from around the country gathered, and how Jean, an avid reader with an ever-present thirst for knowledge, had studied so much about heart surgery that he half expected her to someday be called upon do a little bit of surgery herself. Even while noting that his late wife would not approve of such a fuss being made over her, he thanked the gathered assembly on her behalf, and let each and everyone know that she very much appreciated what they themselves had contributed to the Englewood community she so loved.
In addition to working with the Writers Guild, Historical Society, Elsie Quirk Library, and Pioneer Days, Jean Airey has also been associated, in one capacity or another, with the annual Cracker Fair, Lemon Bay Playhouse, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and EARS, among many other groups, individuals and causes.
Jean Airey was a contributor to Englewood Edge, occasionally under her byline but most often anonymously promoting the Historical Society activities and Pioneer Days.
She will be sorely missed.