BY LORAINE ANDERSON
TRAVERSE CITY — Nancy Hayward, a 1970s downtown advocate, demographic researcher and citizen planner who helped save downtown from what she called the "malling of America" died at her Old Mission Peninsula home, surrounded by her family.
Family and friends recalled Hayward as a visionary, people person who saw the best in everyone. She was an ardent supporter of the environment and human rights, and as compassionate, spiritual, and both a student and teacher of her many interests.
"She was a woman who lived comfortably between the lines," daughter Sheryl Williams said. "She lived passionately up to the end."
Hayward, 74, who died Sunday, was diagnosed in 2009 with an incurable lung disease that causes scarring and thickening of the lungs, but only her last six months were debilitating, Williams said.
During the 1970s, Hayward served as executive director of the Data Research Center, a statistical analysis firm that prepared regional demographic and economic data for city and Grand Traverse region planners, downtown businesses, banks and local human services agencies, in a day before computers came into common use.
"The Data Research Center did a lot of the foundation work then for what came to be the Traverse City today," said Bryan Crough, executive director of the Downtown Traverse City Association. "She pulled a lot of people together to work on revitalizing downtown."
Hayward also was active in women's consciousness-raising groups in the 1970s and organized a community workshop that led to the creation of the Women's Resource Center, said Marsha Smith, executive director of Rotary Charities, who also served with her on the first board.
"She always provided steady guidance on what we needed to do and how to get it done," Smith said. "She was the force that got it done. Nancy was such a strong woman, but she was soft and compassionate, too. I think she would like to be remembered that way."
Hayward, an opponent of nuclear energy, served on the Traverse City Light & Power board when it was trying to decide whether to invest in nuclear energy — about the same time of the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island, Pa.
She was one of the early members of the Grand Traverse Area Unitarian-Universalist Congregation and also a member of the philanthropic Old Mission Women's Club, and the Old Mission Historical Society.
She worked through the 1980s as a planner for Munson Medical Center until she retired in her 50s.
She also wore another hat: religious explorer, which took her on several international study trips, including China, Tibet, Nepal, Ecuador, England, Egypt and Peru, as well as to the Navahos in Canyon De Chelly in the American Southwest. Well-versed in herbalism and considered a shamanic healer, she also founded a regional herbalist group.
She and husband, Gordon, who survives, once hiked 18,500 feet up Mount Kailash in Tibet with a Buddhist monk and also traveled by horseback into Peruvian mountains
"It's hard to capture Nancy," said Kline, a friend and social worker. "She was a powerful and wise woman. She had so much leadership and so much impact. She was very willing to teach people how to heal themselves and heal others and how to create community."
A private family service will be held today and a memorial service will be scheduled in the summer "when it's green again," said Gordon Hayward.