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Nancy Dennis Burrows

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Nancy Dennis Burrows died peacefully in her sleep on Nov. 17, 2003, in Santa Barbara.

Nancy was born and brought up in Bennington, Vt., the daughter of Margaret Colgate and James Dennis. Her father managed Fillmore Farms, the family business for many years. She was a descendant of Robert Colgate, the founder of the Colgate Palmolive Co., whose heirs were the principal benefactors in the establishment of Colgate University. Her grandfather, James C. Colgate, was an active trustee there for 52 years. Her high school years were spent at Chatham Hall in Virginia, from which she graduated in 1939, and then she went on to Bennington College. She had one brother, David Dennis, who was in the 10th Mountain Division and was killed in action in Italy in April 1945. Her sister Peggy lived in Cockeysville, Md.

In World War II she joined the WACs and was assigned to the OSS, where she always laughingly referred to her exalted role in the typing pool. During her stint in Washington, she met and married her husband Robert Henry Burrows, a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy, in December 1945. After the war, they began their life together in Pasadena, subsequently moving to Llewellyn Park, West Orange, N.J.

Nancy’s love of flowers and gardening and also of horses led them to move to Far Hills, N.J., where she managed Windy Hill Farm and imported some of the first Connemara ponies to the United States from Ireland. In 1968, they moved to Bella Vista Drive, Santa Barbara, and she began a 30-year project of building great gardens at Stornoway, her home in the hills of Montecito. She was an active member of the Garden Club of America in each place she lived, and became a horticultural judge and received a lifetime award for her work with the GCA. She was on the board of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden from 1971-1977 and was a founding member of the Garden Guild in 1972. She was a docent at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden and at Madam Ganawalka’s famous garden, Lotusland.

Her first love though was the flowering of Stornoway, and she established a great collection of plants from around the world, including protea from South Africa and Australia, cedar trees from her husband’s ancestral home in Bermuda and succulent plants from around the world. Nancy’s specialty was in hybridizing irises, and her garden at Stornoway was a blaze of colors every spring. The Garden Conservancy toured her gardens in 1995. In addition to her love of gardening, she loved writing and family history.

After her husband died in 1985, she became a prolific, though unpublished, author of two books, “Tomorrow Comes the Song” and “I Saw the Morning Break,” and many historical monographs on the Colgate family. She leaves behind her four children Babbie, David, Susan and Fred, nine grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Services were held at the All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara on Nov. 22, 2003 and the funeral arrangements were made by Welch-Ryce-Haider. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Bennington Museum.
Published in Bennington Banner on Dec. 2, 2003
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