Thursday, September 10, 2009

In Memoriam - Nancy Minson

I never had the pleasure of meeting Nancy Minson, and it's my loss. A Facebook friend recently posted that Nancy had died. Who knows why, but I felt compelled to find out more about her and what she had done during her 63 years. What I discovered was pretty amazing!
Nancy Minson was given six months to live - and took 21 years instead.

Bucking convention came naturally to Ms. Minson, who died of pancreatic cancer at age 63 on Tuesday at Hospice of Cincinnati in Blue Ash.

A feminist and tireless advocate of liberal causes, Ms. Minson, of East Walnut Hills, survived a battle with aggressive stage 3 ovarian cancer that was diagnosed in 1988. It was then that she was given that most dire prediction: she would soon die.

But she didn't, traveling to Santa Cruz, Calif. for experimental treatment that she credited with prolonging her life.

"I've never seen somebody that loved life so totally," said her close friend Marianna Brown Bettman, whom Ms. Minson helped elect to the First District Court of Appeals in 1992. [...]

Born Nov. 25, 1945 to Louis and Frieda Minson, she grew up in Paddock Hills and attended Walnut Hills High School. She enrolled at Ohio State University, graduating in 1969.

Ms. Minson then launched a 40-year career speaking out for government reform, progressive and Jewish causes and Jewish and gay rights.

Her work took her to Washington, D.C. as a congressional staffer; to Israel; to Belgium, where she was a journalist for a community newspaper; back to Cincinnati; to Santa Cruz, where she worked as a medical case management supervisor, primarily with older adult and HIV-infected patients; and finally to Cincinnati again.

In 2004, Ms. Minson helped overturn a 1993 amendment to Cincinnati's charter that prohibited the city from extending protections to homosexuals.

She was named one of The Enquirer's Women of the Year in 2002.

"She was tough, she was a fighter and yet she was one of those people who could make her strongly-held position clear with a good deal of passion yet do it with a great deal of grace so that people were open to her message," said Tim Burke, chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

She was grateful for life to the end.

"Knowing I'm going to die is terrifying but in some ways it's a gift," Ms. Minson said in a recent hospital bed conversation. "It's incredible to hear people say how much they love you."
The Enquirer has a comments section, and I was particularly taken by this one:
JaAli wrote:
Since I am of the conviction that the human essence is of a spiritual nature I will speak to the spirit of this lovely woman and great human being. Ms. Minson was the apex of givers, so that others could receive the fruits, the flowers, the rewards and the sacred offerings that come in being an American.

She lived a life that was committed and predicated on sharing, caring, loving and adding to and not taking away from human beings, irrespective of race, faith, class, color, sex or sexual orientation. She told me the last time I talked with her about a battle against a injustice that I was going to wage at city hall, she said, "Good, because if you don't do what you believe is right this will be a wasted day for you and you will not be increased as a man of principles and convictions."

Thank You, Nancy Minson, for my "increase." Heaven will be 'increased' when you get there also. God Bless You!
The Cincinnati Enquirer interviewed Minson in 2002, following her Women of the Year award.
Often, you are described as an "outspoken social activist." How do you feel about that?

I'm proud of it. I am progressive. I'm not afraid of being called a liberal. I'm passionate about human rights. So I think that's a wonderful compliment. [...]

You are an advocate for all kinds of people. Where did this mission come from?

I think my mother and my whole cultural heritage. There's a quote from Rabbi Hillel I learned as a kid: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I'm only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?"

Your mother was a big influence. Did everything she told you turn out to be true?

My mother taught me two things in life that were wrong, that I spent the rest of my life unlearning. One is, "right overcomes wrong." The other is, "life is just." Although they are good goals, they're not true.

So, if you go through life bemoaning things aren't right and they aren't just, you get caught up with that and you don't deal with the situation as it is. I'm pretty pragmatic about that. But it took me a long time to learn it. [...]

You are straight, but because you're single and active in gay rights, you know many people think you're a lesbian. Does that bother you?

Not at all. Although I have a cousin, who's like a brother to me, who tells me I should make sure I say I'm straight every time I do an interview. You'll never get a date! he says.

Because many people assumed I was a lesbian, I got a look at the gay community I never would have gotten otherwise. It was also interesting to see how people treated me differently.

You have been involved in many political campaigns. Will you run for public office?

I don't think so. First, I don't think I could take the rejection. I also don't think I could raise the money it takes to win. One of my causes is campaign finance reform.

I'd rather work on campaigns than be the candidate. ... But I love politics. I think politics is the most efficient means to social change.

Another piece of advice someone gave me once: The world is run by those who show up. It's true. Our elections are decided by a minority of an electorate. I want to make sure my voice is heard. So I show up a lot.
I never met Nancy Minson, but I certainly wish I had. Rest in peace Nancy ... and thanks for being such an inspiration!

1 comment:

Tengrain said...

I think I met her once at my Santa Cruz dyke friends' house -- they know everyone!

At anyrate, she sounds like a unique and rare spirit, and I'm sorry for losing her so young.

Thanks BAC for presenting her to us.