Nancy Lou (Thomas) Burkhard
1923 - 2021
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Nancy Lou (Thomas) Burkhard Nancy Lou (Thomas) Burkhard, the second of three children, was born in Highland Park Hospital in Michigan, to James O. and Virginia R. Thomas on October 14, 1923. She grew up in Ferndale - Oak Park, Michigan - the city line literally went right through their lot. She could hear the Detroit Zoo lions roar from her house on hot summer evenings. When The Great Depression hit, her father was laid off from his engineering job at the Ford Motor Company and the family had to rent their house out to make ends meet. They moved into a tent in the vacant lot next door that her father owned. She said it was hard as a small child to see someone else living in your house. She remembers eating stewed tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Before the next school year, her mother took the children to Sunnyside, Washington to live with her mother's family, while her father built a small house to replace the tent. They lived there for three years, until her father secured gainful employment. The family would escape every summer to her father's hometown of Northport, Michigan. There, on the shores of Lake Michigan, she enjoyed hours of fun with her many cousins, who also came for the summer. After graduating in 1941 from Lincoln High School in Ferndale, Michigan, she enrolled at Michigan State College (not yet a university). With a lack of men on campus due to the war, she enlisted in the Women's Air Corps. Unfortunately, she was a quarter inch too short to qualify for flight school, and was not accepted. She still had an immense desire to fly so she enrolled in lessons to get her private pilot license. In 1946, she saw an ad for Pan American looking for stewardesses, and jumped on the opportunity. Her father drove her from Detroit to Chicago for the interview and she was subsequently hired. Her first assignment was in Miami, flying three round trip flights a day to Havana, Cuba. She worked her way up to the role of purser, which meant she was responsible for everything that came into the cabin of the plane. She was chosen to go on Pan Am's inaugural flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. She made it to Rio de Janeiro, where she was informed that the Argentines did not recognize a woman's signature, so they would have to send a man in her place. She was not disappointed though, because she got to spend an all expenses paid week in Rio de Janeiro. After three years in Miami, Pan Am offered her and her stewardess roommates to transfer to San Francisco, to cover their expanding Asian routes. They accepted and moved to Burlingame to pursue new experiences. She made many exciting memories and loved to tell the family of her travels. She told us about serving Bob Hope and his family several times on her flights; as well as celebrating New Year's twice in 24 hours, once on Wake Island and then crossing the date line and celebrating again in Hawaii. For a time, she was part of Captain Henry Kristofferson's (father of Kris) crew. All of this was before jet plane travel. Then, at a party in San Francisco, she met Bob, her future husband. After six months of dating and sensing marriage on the horizon, she decided to quit Pan Am because you could not be married and a stewardess at that time. For her entire life, if you ever called her a "flight attendant" she would correct you and say she was a stewardess. She was very proud of her career. Bob and Nancy were married in 1953 and settled in an apartment at Columbus and Bay in San Francisco. They had a view of Mt. Tam in the distance and were drawn to Marin, so in 1954 they purchased a lot in Greenbrae. After saving money for two years, they started construction on their home. In October of 1956, they moved into their new home with their infant son, Kurt, and over the next three years they had two more sons, Ken and John. They raised their family and lived in the house for 47 years. They were faithful members of St. Sebastian's parish. Nancy was proud of being a housewife and would always say, "you don't think raising three boys is a full-time job!?" In her 60s she volunteered for astronaut training at NASA Ames Research Center to test the effects of space travel on senior citizens. In 2003, Bob and Nancy sold their house in Greenbrae and moved to Villa Marin. They enjoyed traveling and over the years took many trips to Europe and Asia. In their later years, they rediscovered Northport, Michigan and enjoyed many trips to visit her sister, Jane, who retired there with her husband, Dick. Nancy was predeceased by her parents, James and Ruth, and her older brother, Bronson. She is survived by her husband of 67 years, Bob; her sister Jane and husband Dick; her sons and spouses Kurt (Jane), Ken (Carol) and John (Steffanie); and her grandchildren: Rob, Tom, Carlie, Genna (Cole) and Joe. She was laid to rest at Mt. Olivet on August 24, 2020 with family in attendance.

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Published in Marin Independent Journal from Mar. 5 to Mar. 7, 2021.
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