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Nancy Catherine Harrison

December 1, 1938 - January 31, 2021

Nancy Catherine Harrison Nancy Catherine Harrison
  • Funeral
  • February 20, 2021 | 1:00 P.M.
  • Zoom Memorial: Please see link.
  • Burial Location

Nancy Catherine Harrison passed away peacefully at home on January 31, 2021 at the age of 82.  Born on December 1, 1938 to Della (Lavin) and John Harrison, Nancy grew up in a Southside Irish neighborhood of Chicago and was the second of six children. Nancy graduated from Mercy High School in 1956. She married James Francissen in 1959, and dedicated her life to her four children, Vernon, Patrick, Kathleen, and Jean, to caring for others and ultimately to the grandchildren she adored, Curtis, Peter, Patrick, Katherine, Matthew and Gavin, who affectionately dubbed her “Meme”.

Nancy earned a nursing degree while raising her children, graduating from the nursing program at Elgin Community College and passing her board exams to become a Registered Nurse in 1979. For many years she worked at Delnor Hospital, on the Central Unit and in the Emergency Room, as well as in other roles.  She also worked for a time as a nurse at the Illinois Youth Center, a juvenile detention facility in Valley View, and often lamented the scars she had seen on the inmates and the tragic stories of their lives. She chose to finish out her nursing career in the relative calm of Richardson Electronics, ultimately holding many different titles, first and foremost being the facility’s on-site nurse.

Nancy had a keen mind and tremendous intellectual curiosity. She enjoyed listening to the opera, loved impressionist paintings and was a passionate and incomparable gardener.  An avid reader, she devoured countless books, newspapers and virtually any other form of writing that she could get her hands on. For decades she could be relied on to provide an impassioned synopsis of the day’s news, fueled by her daily intake of coffee and cigarettes, which ultimately earned her the moniker of “Machine Gun Meme” for her rapid-fire, often incisive, commentary.

Nancy enjoyed traveling and had many great adventures with her sister, Patty, to places like France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, as well as Costa Rica, Curacao, and Aruba.  They celebrated her 50th birthday in London and later traveled to Thailand, China and Macao.  She also went to Egypt, Jerusalem and the West Bank, visiting the Great Pyramids and the Wailing Wall.  And, of course, she went to Ireland, journeying to her parents’ ancestral homes in County Mayo to touch the stones of the buildings in which her parents were born and raised.

Nancy was a strong proponent of education for her children, all of whom graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She delighted in her grandchildren, and likewise imbued them with her belief in higher education, proudly watching them go on to attend colleges and universities around the country, including the University of South Carolina at Columbia, Augustana College, Case Western, DePaul University, Columbia College Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Indiana University. Virginia Tech will join that list in the fall.

Driven by her knowledge and experience as a nurse, Nancy’s most fervent wish was to pass away peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, when her time came.  This was made possible by her daughter, Jean Francissen, Jean’s husband (John Sari), and grandsons Curtis, Patrick and Matthew, who welcomed Nancy into their home and cared for her for the last five years of her life, as she battled against memory loss and dementia, yet somehow retained her unique ability to provoke moments of laughter with her incomparable wit.  Nancy was accompanied by her little dog, Toto, and her not-so-little dog, Mickey, who were with her until the end, along with the family’s devoted German Shepherds – all of them ever-appreciative of her boundless generosity with table scraps.

Nancy’s final days were made more peaceful and comfortable by the ministering care of an extraordinary young Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Jeff Celis, who is training to become a nurse. Although he only cared for Nancy for a short time, his tender and considerate care had a profound impact – not only on Nancy’s final days but also on the loved ones who were helping to care for her. Just as Nancy’s extraordinary efforts and compassionate care for her patients so often had a deep impact on her patients and their families, the gentle and attentive care that Jeff provided to Nancy has had an indelible impact on Nancy’s family. Therefore, in keeping with Nancy’s legacy of having helped so many individuals during her lifetime – friends, family and strangers alike – the family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Nancy Harrison Memorial Scholarship Fund that they have established to enable this amazing young man to complete his nursing education so that he can continue to walk in the very large footsteps that Nancy left in the nursing field. To Donate click this link

Nancy was preceded in death by her parents, Della (nee Lavin) and John Harrison, her brothers, Jack, Jimmy, and Bill, and her ex-husband, Jim. She is survived by her sisters, Patty and Gail, her children Vern, Pat, Kathy (Van Jepson), and Jean (John Sari), her six grandchildren, Curtis, Peter, Patrick, Katie, Matthew and Gavin and a myriad of beloved nieces and nephews. In the words of her nephew Ned Hickey (Patty), Nancy had a gift for creating a space for others, where they could grow, thrive and be themselves, opening her home and her heart to all and sundry. She will be forever loved and missed.

A memorial for Nancy will be held by Zoom on Saturday, February 20th at 1:00 p.m. central time (

A Celebration of Nancy’s Life will be held following the pandemic. If you would like to be informed of the details of the Celebration, please leave your contact information in the guest book.



Dave & Gale Mack from St. Charles, IL

"We will cherish the memories of being a neighbor of Nancy's while living in Farmington.We would like to be informed of the memorial service for Nancy.f"

Mike and Angela Jennings from Tempe, AZ

"Kindly accept our sympathy for the loss of Nancy. There are many great memories that still exist. Sending positive thoughts from Arizona!"

Beverly Olszeski Huff from Kennesaw, GA

"“There are no words, but there is much love surrounding your family In the memories of my dear friend, Nancy”!"

The Robert W. Bartlett Jr Family from San Ramon, CA

"I discovered this notice 4.6.21 and, consequently, were not able to participate in the zoom memorial. Nancy created a wonderful life for herself and her extended family. We truly enjoyed the renewed relationship resulting from her brief California residence in better times."

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