Paula Zelonky (Hogan)
Nancee and I became friends during an insipidly boring BBYO convention freshman year. Neither one of us lasted very long in that organization. She was - to my unworldly eye - sophisticated and exotic. She dressed in black, played guitar (3 or 4 songs), and flirted self confidently with much older guys. She was an equestrian with a horse of her own. On top of that she had an amazingly chic French stepmother with whom she did not get along.
Our friendship endured through our years at UW- Madison and, upon graduation, we decided to trek through Europe together. Despite Nancee’s difficulties with her stepmother she majored in French and had studied in France during college. It seemed like the logical place to start. Nancee’s sense of adventure and talent for telling a good story kept me entertained throughout our travels. Her facility with the French language, open mind, and general friendliness led to many out extraordinary experiences—some were funny, some a bit dangerous, all of them enriching.
When we got to Grenoble it was au revoir. She stayed for five years teaching English at the university. I traveled about for a little longer and then returned to Wisconsin. She came back for visits which were always a delight, supporting me through some stormy times. Then she settled down (if Nancee could ever be truly "settled") in Los Angeles.
Perhaps it was the sense of adventure that I loved so much about her that led her to a private plane flight 36 years ago. She was on her way to a conference. The weather was stormy and visibility poor. The plane hit a mountainside killing everyone inside.
Nancee and I were supposed to grow old together. She could have been an "eccentric aunty" to my kids. I will never have another friend quite like her. Does anyone?
Debbie Simon (Konkol)
What a beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing those memories. I feel like I know her a little more now. She was always such a beautiful and intriguing person in High School. What a tragic loss for everyone who loved her.
When Claudia Smart died I felt like a part of me had died and yes - there is nothing like a friend you grew up with. I'm blessed that I still do have friends from that time - but she was my "go to" person. How I wish I could have helped her more.
Again, thank you for those lovely memories.
Debbie Simon Konkol
Paula, Thank you for your touching comment about Nancee. I did not know how she died. Nancee and I were very close when we were both at Cumberland. Nancee and I shared a love for horses when we were young and Nancee was fortunate to be able to have pursue her passion and eventually to get a horse that she showed in several horse shows. I went to several of those shows to support Nancee. I am sorry that her dreams were ended so early.
I really appreciate this. I had a brief friendship with Nancee in high school which frankly meant a lot to me. I also felt we were kindred spirits. I remember one afternoon we saw "The Collector," a truly terrifying ahead of its time psychological thriller. We went back to her house and spent the rest of the day analyzing it. We both loved French. I'd already spent a summer studying in Quebec. I found Nancee to be smart and funny and I regret not keeping up with her after graduation. Thank you.