Bainbridge Island writing teacher, poet, and editor Nancy Rekow passed away from cancer and dementia, on 2/20/23, during a windstorm. She was 90 years old.
The first child of Doren and Mid Mitchell, Nancy grew up in an old stone house in the rural community of Martinsville, New Jersey, climbing apple trees and exploring the woods and fields with her three younger siblings, and attending a small country school. Both of Nancy’s parents gave her much encouragement and support. Her mother taught her a love for gardening, nature and the arts. Her father, an electrical engineer/inventor at Bell Labs, NYC, encouraged her to follow her creative gifts, and in turn, to inspire others’ learning and growth.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in English from Oberlin College, she moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where she worked in publishing and took in the atmosphere of the 1950’s beat writers and the blooming jazz and folk scenes. While in New York, she studied for an MA in Education at Bank Street College. Soon after, she took a job as an elementary school teacher on a U.S. Air Force base in Rugby, England, where she taught youngsters and met her first husband, Airforce intelligence officer – and now long-time island resident – Ken Rekow.
After marrying, Nancy and Ken moved to Chicago, where Nancy continued to teach elementary school. She also worked as a secretary in a sleep research lab, helping to put Ken through law school. While in Chicago Nancy and Ken had their first child, daughter Sara. In 1963, they settled on Bainbridge Island, scraping their pennies together to buy the old Fletcher Bay Dairy at Island Center. Eventually their family grew to four children, with the coming of Alec, Mitch, and Becky. Nancy strove for years to make a good home, and imparted to her children her love of books and language. In the idyllic space and refuge of “The Farm,” Nancy and Ken raised their family, remodeling and adding on to the original house as the children grew and explored through the magical surroundings of orchards, barns, outbuildings, pastures, creek and woods. In this treasured family space, family and friends have continued to explore, create, and find renewal throughout the years.
In the mid 1970’s, determined to develop as a writer and seeking fulfillment beyond the confines of home and family, Nancy signed up for a poetry workshop with Bob McAllister, thus starting along the path she followed for the rest of her life: working with words while imparting her knowledge and enthusiasm to both adults and children. Along the way, she earned another master’s degree, this time in Creative Writing, from the University of Washington.
Through a variety of classes at the grade school and community college levels, Nancy ultimately taught hundreds of aspiring writers. Many stayed in contact with her long after she had taught them, and some became writing teachers themselves. Her workshops in poetry and prose encouraged both the written and spoken word. Today her students continue to read their work in venues across Puget Sound and beyond. Through discussion and supportive critiques, she helped awaken creativity for over four decades.
In addition to her devotion to her students, Nancy was largely responsible for two major cross-disciplinary projects, Island of Geese and Stars and The Northwest Poets and Artists Calendar, as well as collaborating for years on the publication of Ars Poetica. She also became the first director of the Bainbridge Island Arts Council (now Arts & Humanities Bainbridge), and organized many poetry readings at Bainbridge’s San Carlos Restaurant and Poulsbo’s Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse.
Besides her work as a writing teacher and editor, Nancy was also an award-winning poet.
Nancy and Ken divorced in the 1990’s, but remained lifelong friends. Later, Nancy married Bainbridge High School English teacher, friend, and fellow writer Everett Thompson, with whom she enjoyed domestic pleasures and worked on numerous editing projects through their publishing company, Trillium Press, before Everett died in 2016.
For her work as a poet, teacher, editor, and creative collaborator, Nancy was honored as an Island Treasure in 2018.
Like all of us, Nancy had her struggles. She embodied the sensitivity and intensity that so often accompany a creative spirit. During stretches of her life, she endured depression. But she sought help when needed, and was able to make it through such times.
Besides her work, Nancy enjoyed reading, walking, gardening, singing, the visual arts, Thai food, and the natural world.
She is survived by children Sara Rekow of Indianola, Alec Rekow of Bainbridge, Mitch Rekow of Albuquerque, NM, and Becky Rekow of Bainbridge; grandchildren Anna Rekow of New York City, and Mateo Rekow of Albuquerque, NM; sisters Hetty Mitchell of Tucson, AZ and Lynn Mitchell of Sunnyvale, CA, as well as niece Jenny Maxwell of Santa Clara, CA, nephew Leo Masursky of Tucson, AZ, and their families.
In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be made to Arts & Humanities Bainbridge, N.A.M.I., One Tree Planted, or your local public library. Nancy would also encourage the reader to explore their own creativity, and to find ways to include the arts in everyday life.