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Remembering a True St. Mary's Academy Legend

Alumna, Sister, teacher's name lives on in the form of an endowed scholarship.

St. Mary's Academy has lost an icon of our community. Nancy Moore '47, who as Sister Ignatia Ann made an indelible mark here as a drama teacher and school theatre director for 17 years, passed away September 29 at age 87.

Born in Portland in 1929, Nancy grew up during troubling times for our country and world. Events like World War II informed her determination and advocacy for her students, and she lived life as a celebration. Her passion for God led her to join the Sisters of the Holy Names in 1949.

In her time as a St. Mary's teacher, Sr. Ignatia Ann inspired thousands of students, parents and community volunteers to come together to create some of the most beloved theatrical productions in the Pacific Northwest. She changed assumptions about the limit and scope of possibility in school productions and she continually challenged her students and audiences, earning St. Mary's Academy a reputation for excellent and extraordinary theatre. Ignatia Ann's "the show must go on" mentality was perhaps most colorfully illustrated when, on opening night for one of SMA's plays, the entire cast and crew came down with a 24-hour bug. "Iggy" found a swatch of red felt and made a red cross to attach to her headdress before administering Alka-Seltzer to everyone in the theatre!

Nancy Moore was highly educated, beginning with her time at St. Mary's Academy and including stops at Seattle University, Marylhurst College, Washington University in St. Louis and Catholic University of America, where she earned her MFA. She returned to St. Mary's in 1959 and soon the auditorium would ring with her words, "All right you birds, do it again!" Nancy developed confidence in her students and taught them about courage, trust and overcoming adversity. Thousands of SMA alumnae are grateful for the impact Nancy had on them; here are the words of one of those alumnae, M.J. Anderson '71, renowned sculptor and, like Sr. Ignatia Ann, a St. Mary's Academy Award winner:

Sr. Ignatia Ann was a larger than life presence for many girls at St. Mary's Academy, scooping up her skirts as she marched across the stage in her wooden shoes. She taught drama class, teaching us to show up ON TIME, never miss a cue, project our voices, to be aware of our posture and to be responsible to the ensemble. Required reading was the weekly Arts section of the New York Times, which opened our minds to culture and the arts on an international scale. She took many of us on field trips to ski at Mt. Hood, beach weekends and to plays and performances in Portland & Seattle. For several years she took groups of girls to tour the wonders of Europe during the summer.

Before the era of St. Mary's Fundraising and Development, her professionalism in producing the annual musical and play resulted in ticket sales which became a large part of the SMA operating fund. Respected and admired by the Portland theater community, she rarely did anything on a small scale, building the first rotating stage in Portland.

She was more than a teacher, she was an influence. I remember our sophomore year knitting craze and after knitting several long scarves, she insisted I start over and retrain my fingers to knit the RIGHT way, the European method. I will always be grateful for that.

She had a second life after she left the convent, teaching near Port Angeles so she could live and be near her mother in Sequim, Washington. About ten years ago we reconnected and I found her living in a log house on a small acreage on Hooker Lane with a donkey, a set of Sardinian sheep, no less than 200 chickens, all protected by several Great Pyrenees dogs (each seemingly the size of a small Volkswagen Bug). Her most recent dog was an adorable white fluff-ball (as a puppy) named "Spirit" -- leading me to query if she had in fact named him after Himself, the Holy, to which she affirmed! Shortly after reconnecting, the log house burned to the ground. I arrived two days later to help in the aftermath, expecting her to be understandably shaken. She was remarkably calm and pragmatic, and gracefully transitioned to new living arrangements in a small trailer which she shared with a dog, a cat--and an occasional chicken. She kept a small Christmas tree permanently decorated up in the sleeping loft, "as Christmas comes around sooner than you think!"

She was a woman of faith who continued her spiritual dialogue on a daily basis.

On her way home from volunteering for hospice, she would stop at Goodwill or Costco, searching for bargains, certain her find would fill a need.

She was a great cook in the smallest of kitchens, she laughed heartily with her friends, was a kind listener and yet spoke her mind. We would sip Irish whiskey and watch her favorite movie Now Voyager, with Bette Davis. Full of energy with a sharp mind, she felt betrayed by the lethargy caused by cardiac problems, but despite her protestations, her actions resembled the "Energizer" bunny.

When she was young, she cancelled her engagement to be married, telling us "You know, I just thought there should be something MORE to life, and so I became a nun in hopes of finding it." Whenever we would part, she would say "You know Mary, I may not be here next time... I could go ANYTIME!" Well, anytime finally arrived. Nancy was MORE than life -- and now she's found what she was looking for.

Nancy spent her final years volunteering with Hospice and caring for elder dogs that were deemed unadoptable, demonstrating until the end her boundless spirit and generosity.

Those who knew her will always remember Nancy Moore's zest for life, her ease with conversation and her love for God and others, especially her St. Mary's Academy students. We will miss her dearly, but we know that she is with her Creator, and that her legacy lives on here at St. Mary's through a scholarship bearing her name. Remembrances may be made in support of the scholarship to: St. Mary's Academy, 1615 SW Fifth Ave., Portland, OR 97201.

Note: A Celebration of Life for Nancy Moore will take place November 12 at 12:00 noon at Grange Hall in Joyce, Washington.