Nancy J. Ayers
Ayers, Nancy J. ALBANY Nancy J. Ayers, 86, known as The Purple Lady, passed away at her Albany home on Wednesday, January 28, 2015. An unforgettable presence, Nancy was known for her political activism, acerbic sense of humor, tireless pursuit of good food and, above all, her personal fashion statement; from her purple-tinted hair down to her purple sneakers, Nancy loved the color purple and surrounded herself with it in her clothes, house, jewelry, car and garden. She is survived by her husband, William T. Battin; her children, Lydia Ayers (Andrew Horner) of Hong Kong, China, James Ayers (Micaela Ayers) of El Dorado, Kan., Sara Ayers (Greg Haymes) of Castleton and Sarah Ritchie-Crowther (Dan Crowther) of Valley Falls; her cousin, Patricia James of Roanoke, Va.; her sister-in-law, Song Cha James of Valrico, Fla.; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She was predeceased by her mother, Mobley M. James; her father, William B. James Jr.; her brother, William B. James III and her second husband Sydney G. Ritchie. Nancy James Ayers was born in Roanoke. She attended high school and college in Virginia and moved to Endwell in 1950. An environmental activist and educator, Nancy created the Susquehanna Conservation Council in 1964 and was the driving force behind the creation of five county parks in Broome County as well as the elimination of the use of DDT on county roads. She served on the Temporary State Subcommittee on Youth Education in Conservation and as the moderator for Speak-Up Ecology, a local WSKG-TV series. Her passion and commitment to the nascent ecology movement inspired and set the bar for others to follow. She moved to Albany in 1974 to work as an executive assistant to the New York State Senate Consumer Protection Committee, where she was instrumental in passing legislation creating the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. She later worked as an analyst for the New York State Legislature's Administrative Regulations Review Commission. After retiring from the Senate, she volunteered for many years at The Community Hospice at Albany's St. Peter's Hospital. Nancy loved fresh oysters, dry champagnes, orchids, ginger ice cream, amethyst jewelry, the music of Frederick Delius, lemon chess pie and just sitting and watching the birds in her lavish garden filled with purple flowers. She made lasting friends everywhere she went. Funeral services will be private, with a celebration of Nancy's life to follow at a later time. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Community Hospice of Albany, 445 New Karner Road, Albany, NY 12205; the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Northeastern New York, 12 Avis Drive, Suite 17 Latham, NY 12110; or The Fresh Air Fund, 633 Third Ave., 14th Floor, New York, NY 10017. To leave a special message for the family online, visit

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Published by Albany Times Union on Feb. 8, 2015.
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7 Entries
Cousin Nancy, you are missed.
Craig Holoboski
January 29, 2018

To Each And Every Member of Nancy's Family;

With a heavy heart, please accept my deep condolences on Nancy's passing. Nothing in the world will ever replace her; the loss is unbearable. I share in your pain and sorrow and consider it the privilege for having known and loved her.

Nancy's influence on my life is such a part of who I am and all that I have survived with her support that I believe it imbedded into my very DNA. Since learning of her passing, the impact of just how many things that I think, do, and see every day have come rushing to my consciousness full bore. I realize that volumes could not cover the moments I've treasured, but one of the many sayings she told me, none is more appropriate right now than “just put one foot in front of the other”.

I admired her before I ever met her, as I sat as a new page in the Senate chamber. I would see her come in on the opposite side of that huge room to talk to her boss, you could not miss her in her lavender hair, and I wondered who was that beautiful lady who clearly knew her own style that carried an amazing aura of confidence and poise.

A few years later, I started a new job in the Senate ARRC where Nancy was the assistant director. She was not at her desk when I first came to her office, but the violets under the grow light and the sign that said “Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition.” told me that this was a person with a sharp sense of humor and I would like her. Nancy was the kind of person that always made you feel better for the time you spent with her.

We enjoyed many lunches, in the office and out. Moreover, there were dinners, and theater. We had been through each other's highs and lows, and no one knew all the trials I lived through and all the weird and funny dates as well as Nancy. I always felt that, I could never quite deliver the same level of exquisite support that she always gave unconditionally to me. I think of her when I reuse my paper plate after lunch now.

Nancy was the wisest person I ever met. Aside from her high intelligence and formal education, she innately knew the right thing to do in any life circumstance for others, her family, friends as well as herself, and did so with efficiency, levelheadedness and forethought. Most amazing to me is that she maintained her balance during the times that life threw curve balls at her. That made it somewhat hard to know what to do to support her. She gracefully accepted any bumbling effort I made at those times. It was astonishing to witness and realize that this was something that you could never learn from a book.

Therefore, it was a special delight to witness the impish look on her face after meeting Bill, when it was clear that she was smitten. There were few other opportunities to tease.

That is not to say that humor was absent, far from it. We shared all the usual office jokes, (printed on paper back then) well as all the ironies of life that came and went across our paths. Cards, cartoons or just the crazy people that came and went through our office, walks over Larks street and in the neighborhood we shared. I sometimes get funny looks when I come out with things like “uglier than homemade sin”. At those times, I laugh to myself because that is a "Nancy phrase".

I do not know how or where I would learn appreciation for higher and unique levels of art, music, theater, and food and of course color, then from this lady of sophistication and class.

One of my efforts to reciprocate a gift of friendship involved a technique of 3D stenciling that I learned. Therefore, I offered to customize her new blue linens by painting purple irises across the pillowcases and flat sheet. The project came out well and she was happy with the gift.

After her retirement, it was always a special treat to visit her house, see the beautiful flowers and enjoy an exquisite gourmet meal on elegant dishes, listen to great jazz and experience wonderful dinner conversations with Nancy and Bill.

God granted me a most rare and precious gift of a lifetime to be blessed with the friendship and love of Nancy for nearly 30 years.

Although the last few years of life steered me away from the frequent contact we once had, Nancy was never far from my thoughts, (how could she be whenever I saw purple?) I missed her then and I will forever miss her now.
Donna Gallagher-Parisi
February 10, 2015
To The Ayers Family, I never met Nancy, but I remember when I worked on State St,and would see her often,,she was a very regal woman,,We talked about her beauty and her style,,I am so sorry for your loss, Rest Easy Nancy,,,,
February 10, 2015
Dear Bill, Sarah, and family,

You have been and will continue to be in my thoughts. I wish you the best through this difficult time and in the future. You and Nancy were good friends to me for many years in Albany and I remember fondly the amazing feasts we shared.


Katherine Dayton-Kistler
February 9, 2015
Sorrow and joy would be the ways of Ms Ayers about her death. Connie and I remember her care of Sid during his brutal struggle dying young. Beautiful obit. Comfort and sympathy to her beautiful Children and grandchildren. Our love to you Connie and Jerry Sanders
Connie/Jerry Sanders
February 9, 2015
To Nancy's family
I am so very sorry for your loss. Nancy was a joy to know and definitely an amazing presence in the lives of those she befriended. I had the pleasure of meeting her back in the late 70's and spent time with her on many occasions. Although she was known for her purple presence it was her warmth that drew me to her.
May the prayers of those she touched and befriended give your comfort at this difficult time.

Bonita Moseley (Marrero)
February 8, 2015
Sarah and family. I'm sorry for your loss. Thinking of you.
Jane McNally
February 8, 2015