Nancy (Benjamin) Leavitt died peacefully at 89 on Sept. 16, 2023, at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers, from complications with metastatic melanoma and after an incredibly rich life of family, friends, community, and giving back.
Nancy’s warmth, generosity, kindness, curiosity, humor, and hospitality were embraced by virtually everyone she met, and she leaves behind countless souls stricken with her passing.
Predeceased by her parents, Harry and Dorothy (Yarock) Benjamin, and her beloved husband of 63 years, Michael, Nancy died surrounded by the love of her daughter Karen Thompson and her husband Tom, son Robert Leavitt and his wife JoAnn, grandchildren Zoe and Harry Leavitt and Harry’s wife Audrey, and her brother Howard Benjamin, his wife Shirley, and their children and grandchildren. Singing, dancing, and sharing stories with friends and family at Harry and Audrey’s July wedding was a fitting final public gathering after a lifetime of hosting and celebrating special occasions. Her pre-Thanksgiving parties in early years of marriage were legendary; many a friend struggled through turkey the next day as a result.
Born in Worcester, Nancy lived most of her life there and became a pillar of the Worcester Jewish community. She led countless organizations, committees, fund drives, and special events; established and led the first Endowment Fund for the Worcester Jewish Federation; and was active in several national charitable organizations. She found special joy in her many years serving as the development director for Dynamy, a pioneering youth internship and empowerment program in Worcester.
Nancy met the love of her life at 15 and built a seven-decade partnership with Mike that revolved around family, friends, philanthropy, travel, the arts, long walks on Good Harbor beach, glasses of wine at sunset, and, ultimately, becoming the most amazing grandparents possible. “In my next life, I want to come back as Nancy’s grandchild” was a common refrain.
A proud graduate of Smith College, Nancy was a lifelong learner, constantly engaged with the great social and political questions of the day. A fierce advocate for social justice, progressive causes, and Israel, she despaired at the movements against tolerance, inclusion, and democracy but maintained a firm belief that “the arc of the moral universe … bends toward justice.” She continued to call, write, donate, yell at the TV, and push for positive change to the very end.
Gardening was another passion. Her rhododendrons were spectacular, and she spent decades creating new beds, planting, trimming, weeding, harvesting, yelling at the rabbits, and just sitting amid the splendor.
Her permanent move to Gloucester in 2001, after years of summers and weekends by the beach, was characteristic. Mike was retired but Nancy at 67 charged right into work at the synagogue, making sandwiches for the local shelter, developing a fabulous new group of friends and fans, joining “swim friends” for meals after water aerobics, running to endless performances and livestreamed operas at the Shalin Liu, and hosting and holding court from her fabulous deck overlooking the ocean.
Special thanks to her incredible medical teams at Lahey and Mass. General and to the Kaplan House for making her last years and days a comfort to us all.
A graveside funeral service and burial were held on Sept. 20, at Mount Jacob Cemetery in Gloucester. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Nancy’s memory may be made to the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Boston, Open Door Food Pantry, Generous Gardeners, or Kaplan Family Hospice House. For condolences in the online guestbook, please visit www.goldmanfc.com. Arrangements by Goldman Funeral Chapel, Malden.