Nearly ten years ago I was setting up our first ever retail booth at Quilt Expo in Madison, Wisconsin. Quilt Expo is one of our favorite shows as it’s produced by Wisconsin Public Television and Nancy Zieman Productions because has a friendly feel to it. It was a hot and humid September day and my t-shirt was damp from the sweat of pushing a heavy cart repeatedly between our booth and our van. In the distance I saw Nancy Zieman in a crisp suit and dress shoes carrying a single quilt over her arm. It was the first time I had ever seen her in person and admired her for being so successful that she had staff to delegate the heavy lifting.
The following day, the first of the show, we sold out of almost all of the merchandise we had brought! Bill drove three hours in the middle of the night with a van full of fabric and we made more kits until 4am. “It was spotting Nancy Zieman that was our good luck charm,” I told Bill.
A few years later, the day before we launched Modern Quilts Illustrated, I spotted Nancy in Houston going up an escalator. I hoped it was a good omen. It was. A few months later Nancy and I were copied on the same email for a blog hop. I told her she was our lucky charm and we had a good laugh about it. A friendship developed over the years and we even spent the night at her home once and enjoyed a delicious meal cooked by Nancy herself. Nancy graciously wrote a blurb on the back cover for our book A Kid’s Guide to Sewing and featured us three times on Sewing With Nancy. Mostly, though, she was a deeply caring and considerate friend and our family adored her.
When she was struggling with cancer we happened to be traveling through Europe. I emailed Nancy that we were praying for her in every cathedral we could find in France, Spain and Italy and we did. We even brought her back some Papal Holy Water from the Vatican, even though neither of us was Catholic. “Gotta cover all the bases,” I joked when I gave it to her. Periodically during her treatments, I emailed her pictures of our foster kittens because I knew she loved kittens and hoped her suffering would come to an end. It didn’t end the way I hoped.
When we got the email last summer that her cancer had returned, our whole family was saddened. In any field it’s hard to find someone who is encouraging and is rooting for your success as a business and as a person. Nancy was one of those rare people for us.
It was our last conversation, however, that always stays with me. It was the morning of Quilt Expo 2017 and we had already been told that Nancy was too ill to attend the show. Many of us were sad but knew that carrying on that show and making it successful would be one way to honor her. Around 7:15am as I was getting in the shower, my cell phone rang. I saw that it was Nancy and picked it up with great excitement. She said, “You told me once that I was your lucky charm so I wanted to wish you a great show.” Naturally I burst into tears. It was an emotional phone call and she said that she was very weak. I knew that this would be our last phone call as her cancer was progressing quickly. I told her that we loved her and thanked her for her friendship over the years. Hanging up the phone was extremely difficult knowing that we would likely never be able to speak again.
For those of you who have read Nancy’s wonderful, inspiring and occasionally heartbreaking, autobiography Seams Unlikely, there is now a followup book written by Nancy’s husband of 40 years, Richard Zieman, entitled Nancy Zieman: The Rest of the Story. The book chronicles where Seams Unlikely ended and documents the unimaginable struggles Nancy faced in her last few years. It also includes lots of family pictures of Nancy with her family and describes how she kept her faith close throughout her life and especially in her final weeks.
If you’ve admired Nancy’s sewing skills, you will be even more stunned at the strength of her spirit as you read all that she endured from a lifetime of medical challenges. Nancy Zieman Productions has graciously provided us with two copies to share for a giveaway. If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Nancy Zieman: The Rest of the Story, please leave a comment below sharing with us what you learned from Nancy.