Jean Airey Tribute

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.

Jean Airey with Carolyn Pope Anderson at the Lemon Bay Historical Society’s Green Street Church Museum.

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.

Jean’s book is on sale at Lemon Bay Historical Society events.

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.




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