Nancy Doyle Chalfant died peacefully on April 26 at her home in Sewickley. She was 98.
Ms. Chalfant was born and raised in , and as a child she attended Miss Jane's School there. Later she attended Westover School in Middlebury, CT.
She married Henry Chalfant in 1935, and the couple settled on Dundee Farm on . During World War II, Nancy served as a nurse's aide while her husband was serving in the Army Air Corps in North Africa and Europe.
Her third child, Verlinda, barely survived at birth and was profoundly mentally and physcially disabled. Nancy and her husband chose to keep Verlinda at home at a time when most children similarly afflicted were sent to institutions where they were cared for with little concern for their dignity and with no therapy or hope of improvement. In her search for a humane alternative, Nancy discovered that she was not alone, and she met many other parents who were struggling to help their own children. She dedicated herself and the good fortune of her wealth to this cause.
She volunteered doing hands-on work at for many years. She was instrumental in the founding of the St. Peter's Child Development Centers (now the Early Childhood Learning Institute) for children with learning disabilities. In 1978, with another parent, Theo Hansel, and Carol Mitchell, a close friend, Nancy founded , a ground-breaking non-profit family of community homes and services supporting people with intellectual disabilities and multiple physical challenges, which has continued at the cutting edge of techinigues for improving the lives of people with profound physical disabilities and mental retardation. Her commintment to this work even took her to Columbia where she helped to found the Propace Center for children with cerebral palsy.
In 1988, she published Child of Grace, the memoir of her journey as the mother of a daughter with special needs. The deep despair that Nancy felt about her daughter led her through a spiritual crisis to a profound faith in Jesus Christ. Her deep desire to serve the God she loved profoundly shaped the rest of her life. She began a ministry of healing prayer at her church, , that continues today. She was the first woman to serve as Senior Warden on the vestry of the church. She was instrumental in helping the church develop programs for those who were mentally and physically disabled such as the Joyful Noise worship service.
Her service to God extended beyond her church. She traveled on a mission trip to Ukraine with the John Guest Evangelistic Team. She helped to found Trinity Seminary in Ambridge and was a founding board member of the Coalition for Christian Outreach, a ministry to college students.
She was deeply involved in the work of the Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation. For her deep faith, her good works and her generosity of spirit, she was awarded an honorary doctorate at Geneva College in 1995.
Nancy was known for her hospitality and opened her home and her beloved Dundee Farm to church retreats, seminary picnics, youth groups and many other organizations that she supported. Her family has lost track of the number of weddings and receptions that have taken place at Dundee Farm over the years.
For several weeks in the summer of 1978, she and husband Henry cleared out the ground floor of their house to provide emergency housing for 20 profoundly disabled, medically fragile people.
Music was very important to Nancy. She played the piano and had a beautiful singing voice. She and her sisters were a popular trio. She was a member of the Westover Glee Club. Throughout her life, she sang in the St. Stephen's Choir.
She is survived by three children, Anne Brown, Henry Chalfant (Kathleen), and Nancy Chalfant-Walker (Jon), ten grandchildren, eleven great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.
She was preceded in death by her husband Henry, her daughter Verlinda and her sisters Rebecca Hollister and Virginia Ramsburg.
Guests will be received at her home on Monday, April 30, from 2-4 and 6-8.The funeral service will be at St. Stephen's Church in Sewickley, on Tuesday, May 1, at 11 am. Burial will be private.
"In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Verland, 212 Iris Road, Sewickley PA 15143, or to St. Stephen's Church, Frederick Avenue, Sewickley, PA 15143. Arrangements by .