Nancy Smith Brewer, 89, of Hiawassee, Georgia, died peacefully on November 13, 2021. Nancy was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Clara and Ernest Smith on January 6, 1932. She grew up in the piney woods of East Texas in the Rose Capital, Tyler.
She attended Tyler High School and Texas Christian University, graduating with a double major in Psychology and Religious Education. Three weeks into her freshman year, she was set up on a blind date with a handsome young philosophy major from Waycross, Georgia. Don Brewer and Nancy Smith wed on April 3, 1953 at First Christian Church of Tyler. Later that year, they moved to Nashville, Tennessee, for Don to attend Vanderbilt Divinity School. They spent several decades raising children and serving churches in Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina and interim pastorates in South Carolina and Georgia.
Nancy was a Title 1 reading teacher in elementary schools in Wartrace and Bell Buckle, Tennessee. After moving to Raleigh, North Carolina in 1971, she became involved in adult literacy and quickly expanded from tutoring to training and advocacy. She discovered a passion for adult basic education, serving on the steering committee for Laubach Literacy International, writing training manuals, teaching reading and other basic education skills, and preparing hundreds of tutors to teach. She was called upon to advise First Lady Barbara Bush on adult literacy and to consult on Johnny Cash’s film “The Pride of Jesse Hallam.” She worked through North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt’s Office of Citizen Affairs as an advocate for literacy; became Lead Trainer, Tutor-Student Coordinator, and President of the Raleigh Literacy Council; and directed the Opportunity for Adult Reading (OAR)/Adult Basic Education program for Bradley County, Tennessee (Cleveland) from 1981 until her retirement in 1995. Even after retirement, she was called upon to train tutors in the southeastern United States.
Nancy balanced her career with family and church life, sprinkling in her numerous hobbies and interests. She was a lifelong member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where she taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, gave and inspired others to outreach, led studies and retreats, made potluck dishes, and served as an Elder. She was honored to be the first Elder Emeritus of Cherry Log Christian Church in Cherry Log, Georgia. Nancy was an active member and leader of the Christian Women’s Fellowship/Disciples Women’s Ministries in the local, regional, and general church, serving on regional cabinets and the Quadrennial Assembly Planning Team. Her adventures in cooking and her creative birthday cakes are legendary; she painted with watercolor; she read avidly and particularly enjoyed presidential biographies and visiting presidential libraries; she wrote poetry and was a storyteller; and she was a seamstress of costumes and often of lives, always seeking to mend where possible.
Nancy is survived by her loving husband of 68 years, the Rev. Donald C. Brewer; her children Robert Brewer and his wife Stacey Brewer, the Rev. Betty Brewer-Calvert and her husband the Rev. Dr. James Brewer-Calvert, and Ann Brewer Riza and her husband M. Shane Riza, Colonel, USAF (ret.); grandchildren the Rev. Henry Brewer-Calvert and his wife the Rev. Anna Brewer-Calvert, Katie Brewer-Calvert, and Jake and Luke Riza; brothers-in-law Donald H. Berry and Joel H. Brewer; sister-in-law Pamela F. Brewer; nieces Nancy Berry Woods and husband Alan Woods, Annamarie Smith-Butz and husband Wolf Smith-Butz, Catherine Smith, Erin Brewer Spainhour and husband Tony Spainhour, and Molly Brewer Peterson and husband Zach Peterson; nephews David Berry and wife Melissa Berry, Stephen Smith, Andrew Smith and wife Juliana Smith, and John Brewer; and numerous great-nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her brother William L. Smith and sister-in-law Nancy Ward Smith, sister-in-law Ann Brewer Berry, niece Laura Smith Keegan (Steve Keegan), nephew James Berry, and niece-in-law Cindy Smith.