One of the Wheat Ridge Historical Society’s lifetime members passed away earlier this month at the age of 87. We don’t usually publicly commemorate these passages, but this woman was more than a lifetime member. She was born in the Red Brick House long before it became part of the Historical Park. She was the youngest granddaughter of Bert and Etta White, homesteaders who purchased and lived in the sod house while they built the Red Brick House (now called the White Family Home) and farmed the 160 acres where the park is now located.
Nancy Lee White Bradford Southard didn’t stay long in the brick house; her father died when she was two, and her mother, Louise White, moved the family – numbering 12 children – to Maybell, a small town in northwest Colorado where her ancestors had homesteaded. Louise remarried, this time to a chicken farmer, and Nancy remembers with pride washing and candling eggs from over a thousand chickens. She lived there until she was nine, and the family moved back to Wheat Ridge and once again rented the Red Brick House. She attended the Fruitdale School for fourth grade. Given a choice, though, she preferred her rural life: “We used to climb mountains and be home in time for dinner. You can’t do that in the city.”
Family was always important to Nancy, and, luckily, those older siblings provided a smooth transition for a young girl of 13 whose mother died suddenly. She never considered herself an orphan, though. Siblings and their spouses gladly shared the responsibility of raising the girl, and she speaks fondly of her “five fathers and five mothers.” That support instilled the importance of family in the young woman.
Nancy married a Marine named Bradford after graduating from high school and began a nomadic phase, moving wherever he was stationed. The couple ended up in a Chicago suburb where they settled and raised five children. (One of those is WRHS vice president and museum tour guide Janet “White” Bradford.) Sadly, the couple eventually drifted apart and divorced.
Nancy returned to Maybell in 1971 where she worked as an operator for the phone company. Love entered her life again when her daughter introduced her to a co-worker. The connection was immediate. They married and opened a business in Craig called Southard Glass. They ran it for years, but by the ‘90s wanderlust hit. They sold the business, bought a motorhome and hit the road, eventually settling in Yuma, Ariz. They later sold the motorhome and bought a house in a 55+ community where Nancy lived until she passed, surrounded by family and the blooming desert flowers she loved.
A celebration of life will be held at the Historical Park Saturday, July 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It coincides with the Society’s Second Saturday Member Appreciation Potluck Picnic, a fitting way to honor a woman who thought of the world as family.