Cover photo for Nancy Peterman Mead's Obituary
Nancy Peterman Mead Profile Photo

Nancy Peterman Mead


Nancy Peterman Mead, 86, passed away May 2, 2024 after a brief illness.

Nancy grew up in Wauwatosa, the consummate big sister, camping with her family and gardening with her Grandma Lou. She was a class officer and cheerleader at Wauwatosa High School. She moved to Madison and graduated with a BA in English and Art from the University of Wisconsin.  Nancy was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She adored UW sporting events, Leckrone band concerts, and the Union Terrace, and was honored to serve as a Member of the Board of Visitors for the College of Letters and Science.  

Nancy and Howard Mead met at the University of Wisconsin and were engaged at the Arboretum under the Leopold pines. Howard fell in love with her beautiful, effortless smile and the way she was always game for anything and everything. They married in 1957 and made their home in Madison in an 1860s farmhouse. 

In 1961, Nancy and Howard purchased Wisconsin Tales and Trails magazine as something fun they could do together. It began with a shoebox-full of subscriptions in a tiny basement home office and became an adventure of a lifetime, 38 years of celebrating the beauty, people, and heritage of the state they loved. Few people have explored and enjoyed Wisconsin as she did, and with such passion. Nancy was legendary. Howard called her the Safari Queen—well-packed and ready for any challenge. 

Nancy raised her three children with typical exuberance—keeping them active, engaged, and curious—running free-range at their beloved farm in Iowa County. She cherished each of her nine grandchildren and loved being with them in the great outdoors. She was a naturalist at the Madison School Forest for 12 years and was involved for more than 25 years with the Blackhawk Council of Girl Scouts as a leader and board member. Every year she invited the schoolchildren from Crestwood School to come press apple cider and enjoy donut holes in her yard.

Through Wisconsin Trails Nancy and Howard enthusiastically promoted environmentalism and conservation. In 2013, their lifelong work in land trust conservation was recognized by Gathering Waters. Nancy was on the first committee for Earth Day with Gaylord Nelson. She served on the Madison Parks Board and was a past president and member of the board of the Friends of the Arboretum. Nancy loved native prairies and the sandhill cranes along the Wisconsin River. 

Truly a Master Gardener, Nancy lived to garden. She always enjoyed the hard work, planning, and creative vision required, and loved even more how a garden is ever-changing and evolving. Her garden was a vibrant masterpiece. Her favorite thing was to share her garden—to invite people in and talk to those who walked by.  She participated in the Madison Area Master Gardener Program and was deeply involved in the Westside Garden Club. 

Nancy was a powerhouse athlete, winning age-group cross-country ski races into her 80s. She was an avid hiker and biker who never returned from an outing without berries or a story or a new friend. You couldn’t slow her down—she was the last one on the dance floor at her grandchildren’s weddings and the first one up to go canoeing on vacation.

Nancy was an incredible friend. She built long-lasting relationships and cherished the friendships she nurtured from her high school years and throughout her life. She drew people in, created communities, asked questions, and listened. She included people, made them important, and was happy to put anyone to work. She loved to host, whether it was making sure her entire clan could celebrate Christmas together, coordinating her craft group, inviting exchange students for holidays, or planning neighborhood picnics. Nancy was an avid and thoughtful reader, always inspired by her two book clubs. She was generous and curious, committed to living a full and vibrant life.

She was preceded in death by her parents Alice and Robert Peterman and her son Andy Mead.

She is survived by her lifelong partner and co-adventurer of 66 years, Howard; her two daughters Jenny Selin (Steve) and Becky Mead (Tim Stelzer); her nine grandchildren Katie Selin (Jordan Yeager), Kari Selin, Kristen Selin (Mike Loch), Emma Loughan (Ryan), Tatum Mead, Cade Mead, Daniel Stelzer, Ada Stelzer, and Sarah Stelzer; her great-grandson Owen Selin; her two brothers Jim Peterman (Susan) and John Peterman (Ellen); and an infinite number of wonderful friends.

A celebration of life will be held in August, details are yet to be finalized.

Those wishing to make memorial contributions may consider The Friends of the Arboretum or The Aldo Leopold Foundation in Baraboo, two organizations near and dear to Nancy’s heart.

Please feel welcome to share your memories and condolences.


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