Nan Keenan-Van Laan

Published 12:54 pm Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nan Kennan-Van Laan left this life on June 26, 2016. There was no obituary and no service because Nan was a very private person and these were her wishes. And I abided by them.

Recently, some have suggested that, by doing so, I have done a disservice to her and to the folks who met her and knew her. I think they may be right. And, so, I offer this in memoriam to a remarkable woman.

Nan was a woman of substance and she deserves to be remembered. She was accomplished in so many ways. Her needlepoint was nationally recognized. She had a successful career as a senior level advertising executive in New York City for one of the top seven advertising agencies in America for almost 30 years. She volunteered for and was hired by the American Museum of Folk Art.

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She chose to walk away from all of that to pursue a dream. She came to Charleston, S.C. and created and operated a successful gift shop, Native Son, which specialized in folk art and American-made gifts. She was an active participant and leader in the Piccolo Spoleto crafts movement in Charleston. In 2000, after eight successful years, her illness forced her to relinquish her dream of Native Son. We moved to Landrum in pursuit of a new dream, a healthy and new life in the Upstate.

Some of you might know her from her shop Wild Child. Others from encounters in local stores. But, I think, all of you who met her will remember her.

For those of you who did meet her, you will remember her most for her smile. It would start with a sparkle in her eyes and spread to her whole face. It would light up a room. Her sense of humor was equally infectious.

For those of you who knew her, you will remember her for her fierce devotion to her friends. Though she was not close to her family of birth, she considered her “real” family to be her friends. And no one was more devoted or generous to her family than she.

Whether you knew her for 62 years (as her childhood friend did) or 62 minutes, or even just 62 seconds, you knew she was remarkable.

What you might not have known was the underlying and hidden courage that she possessed. For sixteen years, she faced and lived with the disease that, ultimately, took her life. But you wouldn’t have known that because she didn’t want anyone else to feel the pain and the fear and the worry that she felt. She wanted them to be happy.

And, so, she woke every morning with a smile on her face, her arms out-stretched in anticipation, waiting for the wonders of a new day.

She was a remarkable woman. A woman of substance. A woman who deserves to be remembered.

  • Submitted by James R. Van Laan