Nancy Ryan
Nancy Ryan

Obituary of Nancy Lee Ryan

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Nancy Lee Ryan (nee Lacey), aged 92, of West Orange, NJ, died peacefully in her sleep, January 14, 2024, of natural causes.

Born in Newark, NJ, Nancy enjoyed her childhood growing up in Vaux Hall, graduating from Union High School, in Union.  She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Arts from Seton Hall Univ., in South Orange, graduating magna cum laude as salutatorian of her graduating class.

Nancy began her retailing career in the 1950s as an advertising copywriter for Bamberger’s Newark, NJ retail store and rose to the position of VP/Advertising before leaving to join Abraham & Strauss in Brooklyn.

With a retail career spanning more than 45 years, Ms. Ryan was at the center of an advertising revolution as campaigns shifted from print and radio to more significant television exposure.

Nancy Ryan was a familiar TV and Radio “voice” for A&S, creating, producing, casting, and directing, as well as “performing” voice-overs for more than 6,000 commercials — all ending with the same enthusiastic rallying cry of “Terrific!”  That one repetitive word quickly came to be recognized as the A&S slogan for “smart shopping”.

Nancy introduced, designed, and authored an annual collection of plush teddy bears for children known as “ABEARHAM & STRAUS THE MOUSE”.  Complete with a pocket-sized adventure story book featuring the two pals, these bears and books became widely recognized as vintage collectibles.

Another choice assignment during her years with A&S was as narrator of several documentaries, each celebrating an historic NYC landmark: The Statue of Liberty, The Brooklyn Bridge, and Ellis Island.

In the 1980s & ’90s, Nancy received many awards recognizing her outstanding contributions to the retailing industry, including: “First Prize, 1988 Retail Advertising Conference Award for Advertising Excellence”; and “Award of Appreciation for Outstanding Dedication to the Advancement of Women”, presented by the National Conference for Women in the Fashion & Beauty Business, 1982 NYC.

Retailing was not her only passion. Nancy Lee Ryan, advertising executive, voice-over artist, documentary narrator and children’s book author also enjoyed the life of a professional singer/actress and accomplished equestrian.

Thanks to live appearances with Red Skelton at the famous “Olympic Park” in Irvington, NJ, when she was just three years old, an MGM talent scout came calling — but Papa said “NO!” to a life in the movies. Fast forward some 20 years, we find Nancy actively engaged in community theatre. She performed dozens of leading roles in musicals and comedies, such as “Irene” and “Unsinkable Molly Brown”, which quickly led to professional work appearing over the years in productions that included “On Golden Pond” and “Mornings at Seven” at the Bickford Theatre/Morris Museum, NJ, and Off Broadway’s “Passing Conversations” at the John Houseman Theatre, NYC.

A union member of SAG-AFTRA and EQUITY, Nancy Lee Ryan was an active member of the theatre industry’s historic PLAYERS CLUB located in a brownstone building in New York’s Gramercy Park district.

Despite her hectic schedule, Nancy found time for equestrian pursuits too, riding daily at the local West Essex NJ Equestrian Center and competing in regional events. She and her beloved horse, “Ghost”, were the happy recipients of many cherished ribbons.

Ghost was aptly named due to his stark white face and “Paul Newman” bright blue eyes wedded to a chestnut body. Most unusual for certain, but even more interesting, Ghost lived to be more than 40 years old. He was a school horse most of his life until Nancy “rescued” him.  Several generations attended his birthday party at the barn one year and gave many former students — and their children as well — a happy opportunity to visit their much-loved equine friend.

Nancy bought this treasured “old” school horse for her 50th birthday, and the two spent many precious years together. During a special event from the NJVMA (NJ Veterinary Medical Assn.) the Animal Hall of Fame Certificate of Merit was awarded to Nancy Ryan as owner of this extraordinary horse.

Ms. Ryan’s awesome versatility and boundless energy led many friends to jokingly comment that she seemed to enjoy more lives than the “nine lives” afforded a cat! In love with life, Nancy was an inspiration for all who knew her to remember to value and to live each day to the MAX! She will long be remembered as a remarkable and very special person who led a joyous and magical life.

Nancy was the loving sister of Diane Lacey and the late Judith Buchanan and is survived by nieces Heather Bodnar and Kimmy Buchanan, nephew Bruce Buchanan, Jr., and great nephews Sean Nadeau and Daniel, Ramzon and Razwon Buchanan, and great niece Julia Nitikin and her two children. Nancy’s ex-husband Jack Ryan predeceased her.

Nancy also leaves behind “Petey”, her dearly loved one-eyed, 17-year-old “service” cat who never left her side through so many of her health challenges.

A funeral mass celebrating her beautiful life will be offered and an internment beside her mother will be in Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, East Hanover, NJ. The family was assisted by Codey Funeral Home of Caldwell, NJ.

In lieu of flowers, please kindly consider a donation to one of Nancy’s favorite charities, such as The Lustgarten Foundation (for Pancreatic Cancer Research), The Diabetes Foundation, People for Animals (Hillside, NJ), or The Mylestone Equine Rescue (Phillipsburg, NJ).

A Memorial Tree was planted for Nancy
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ From the staff at Codey Funeral Home
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Nancy Ryan

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Nancy Ryan

1931 - 2024

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