David Barnum Nance October 10, 1951 – May 27, 2023
We lost David Nance late on Saturday, May 27th after a long battle with Lewy Body dementia. Dave was as committed to atheism as one can be, but we like to imagine him somewhere where his mind has been restored. He had an amazing mind.
He was a labor attorney for the state, who spent his last few years toiling under the tyranny of a governor who shall not be named, even when finding for employees was futile. He was on the side of right until his mind didn't work enough for him to continue. He was an incredible musician who could figure out any song, on any instrument, in a shockingly short amount of time. He was brilliant - he started at UW Madison at 16, though he took his time to finish -- bouncing around in the natural sciences until landing on botany like his parents. He only became a lawyer because he took the LSAT to become a paralegal, but his score was so high that everyone told him to go to law school. He never loved being a lawyer, discouraged any (small) thought his children had of it, and his favorite pop cultural figures were Keyrock, Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer and Lionel Hutts, "law talkin' guy." He never took his work too seriously, though he was excellent at what he did.
He was an artist who could work in any medium, who could sew any costume you could imagine using all kinds of old sweatshirts and material he found at Goodwill and St. Vinnie’s. He was a fantastic color photographer. His black and white photos of roadside memorials were featured in newspapers in the USA and England. He loved Colorado and the American southwest. He hated flying. Our family took lots of train trips. He didn't like saccharine American culture, but he took the kids to see Smurfs on Ice, a Monster Truck Rally and old car shows. He loved music, comedy, and cookies. Dave played with various music groups in the Madison area, Monsanto Feramus (flugelhorn) as a college student and most recently Northern Comfort (bass and guitar).
If you want to honor Dave Nance, eat a cookie. Eat several. No one loved cookies more than Dave.
No matter what else he had to do, Dave helped both of our kids with their science and math at night, reading their textbooks and then patiently reteaching them what they had learned in class that day. That sort of patience is an expression of love at the deepest level.
He loved his children so much and was so proud of the adults they became.
He knew his kids would be wonderful adults and terrific parents because that’s what they knew growing up. We were so lucky to be loved by him.
David Nance leaves his wife and partner of nearly fifty years Betsy Lawrence, as well as their children, Ursula Lawrence (Jeff Pfeiffer) and Daniel Nance (Laura Litjens), and finally, Reuben Pfeiffer, his beloved grandson.
Click the link to hear a recording Dave made of himself playing and singing a blues standard called Reuben's Train.