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Nancy Hillyer Palmer Dontzin, 91, died on Wednesday, January 5th at home in Brighton, NY.
Nancy was born on March 30th, 1930 in Orange, NJ to the late George and Ruth (Whitney) Palmer. She grew up in South Orange, NJ and graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ, where she was valedictorian of her class. Nancy received a bachelor’s degree in history and elementary education from Northwestern University in 1951. She also received a master’s degree in history from the University of Nebraska in 1956 and later received a master’s degree in special education.
Nancy was a teacher and mentor for her entire career and retired in 1996 from Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner, NJ. She taught Advanced Placement history, psychology, and other courses as well.
Earlier in her career, Nancy started STRIDE, the first alternative school for disadvantaged students in New Jersey, which was nationally recognized. She and her husband, Ben, created a ‘Day on the Farm’ program to allow disadvantaged students to spend a day in their home learning how to farm and run a household. Nancy organized and directed the first Headstart program in her community. She also served as president of the teacher’s union and led several successful negotiations.
At her retirement, Nancy was recognized with a permanent book collection in her name and as the school’s most dedicated teacher by the senior class.
Nancy had a lifelong passion for history and politics. She also loved travelling and spending summers on Deer Isle, ME, where she volunteered for several non-profit organizations. Throughout her life, Nancy was known for her kindness to others and her excellent sense of humor.
Nancy is survived by her four daughters, Pat (Bill) Campbell, Kathryn (Charles) Campbell, Anne Dontzin and Mary (Paul) Dontzin. She is survived by seven grandchildren, Shelley Downey, Kathryn Randolph, Elizabeth Randolph, Matthew Grossman, Bridget Grossman, Benjamin Grossman and Alexander Grossman, as well as many friends in New York, New Jersey, and Maine. Her husband, Benjamin J. Dontzin, died in 1997.
There will be a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Nancy’s honor to the Deer Isle Historical Society, P.O. Box 652, Deer Isle, ME 04627 or please join a picket line of your choice.