Nancy Coe Wixom died at home on the morning of April 28 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease and a recent respiratory infection. She was 90. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, or to the Pawling Concert Series.
She was born on November 8, 1927, the daughter of Ralph M. Coe, a prominent Cleveland industrialist, and Dorothy Tracy Coe. She graduated from Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, in 1945 and went on to obtain her B.A. from Skidmore College where she became their first Art History Major. In 1955, after completing her dissertation The History of the Collecting of European Paintings and Drawings in the City of Cleveland, she received her M.A. in Art History from Oberlin College.
Throughout her life, Nancy Wixom had a strong interest in education, the arts, and historic preservation. A native of Bratenahl, Ohio, near Cleveland, she was an elected member of the Bratenahl Board of Education from 1971 – 1977. She was also a founding member of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission from 1974 – 1977, which was created in response to the number of Cleveland’s historic buildings in danger of deterioration and demolition. She lectured frequently on early architecture in Ohio generally and led tours of Cleveland; one for the National Trust in 1958. While she was unable to save the Greek Revival Gillet house in Painsville, Ohio, built by Jonathan Goldsmith in 1821, she was instrumental in the acquisition of its front doorway by the Cleveland Museum of Art.
From 1949 – 1950, Nancy Wixom worked in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s library. From 1956 – 1979 she held various curatorial positions in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Paintings Department. She and a fellow curator, William D. Wixom, were married in 1959 at the Friends (Quaker) Meeting in Cleveland. They eventually had three children. She also served on the Board of Hathaway-Brown School for one year before moving her young family in 1979 to New York where her husband had accepted a position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her service on the Visiting Committee for the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, initiated in 1986, continued after this move until 1996.
During her tenure at the Cleveland Museum, she wrote a number of articles for the Cleveland Museum Art Bulletin and other publications. She contributed entries to the Cleveland Museum’s European painting catalogs. She also authored The Cleveland Institute of Art 1882 – 1982: the First Hundred Years, which was published in 1983.
After the move in 1979 to New York and Westchester with her husband and family, Nancy Wixom continued to pursue her interests in art and historic preservation. She was a founding member and chair of the Westchester Preservation League (widely known as WPL), which saved and restored the Squire House of 1860 in Ossining, NY; the League later merged with the Westchester County Historical Society. She also was active in related efforts on other boards: the Lyndhurst Property Council (for the National Trust property), the Jay Heritage Center (a National Landmark), and the Bartow-Pell Mansion Museum and Collection (where she also was co-curator with Mary Huber 1986 – 1998). She continued to lecture and lead architectural tours in New York, for example in Bronxville and Lawrence Park. She was quoted in The New York Times on November 3, 1985, regarding the pleasures of researching the origins and history of her own late Greek Revival home of the mid 19th century in Eastchester: “You live a detective story.”
In 1998, she and her husband retired to Pawling, New York, acquiring a modernist house initially designed in 1973 by local architect Bill Berkeley; she felt that of the three homes she had lived in since her early married life, each had its own architectural integrity. In Pawling, she continued to pursue her interests in the arts and architecture, adding music, as she was a member of the Pawling Concert Series Board from 2009 – 2010. She was a member of the Akin Hall Society from 1998.
Toward the end of her life she was cared for at home by her loving family, including Henry, the family dog. She is survived by her devoted husband, William D. Wixom, and Llewelyn C. Wixom, Rachel deWolf Wixom, Andrew Hunt Wixom, Natalia G. Wixom, Sonya Savchenko, and Abigail Wixom. Nancy is to be interred at Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, with other members of the Coe family.