Nancy Grape, an Auburn native who worked for both the Sun Journal and Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram as a writer and columnist, died Wednesday in Redwood City, California. She was 84.
She was born at Central Maine General Hospital, now Central Maine Medical Center, in Lewiston in 1933, graduating from Edward Little High School in 1950 and Bates College in 1955.
While at Bates, she was managing editor of the student newspaper, The Bates Student, and a director of the Women’s Athletic Association. She worked summers and nights during college for the Sun Journal.
With a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, she worked in Boston and New York City and Peekskill, New York, before moving back to Auburn in 1971 with her husband, Donald H. Grape, where they raised three children until moving to south Freeport in 1983.
In 1975, she began working as a writer and columnist for the Lewiston Evening Journal.
Grape joined the Portland Newspapers in 1982 as an editorial writer and columnist, writing about local, state and national issues. She retired in 1997, but continued writing a weekly column that appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram through 2008.
John Porter, a former reporter, editorial writer and editor at the Press Herald and Sunday Telegram, joined the editorial department when Grape retired. Porter said in a phone interview Thursday that she taught him how to write opinion pieces.
“She was the most important mentor I ever had in my career,” Porter said. “The most stunning characteristic about Nancy was that she had that rare, really high combination of having a very high intellectual capacity, matched by an equally high capacity for compassion. She had it all. She had the head and the heart and was able to bring that to her work in a way that really drew readers in. Her columns were relentlessly logical, but very much on a human scale. She just had that talent.”
Grape also wrote book reviews for the Sunday Telegram through 2013. She was described as both funny and a pleasure to work with. Porter said she was an ardent feminist.
“She really represented women and women’s issues in a way that was really effective,” he said. “It was an important passion for her.”
Carol Grape, of Littleton, Colorado, described her mother Thursday as a loving and intelligent woman who was passionate about politics and family.
“It was kind of great,” she said. “She was very liberal. My dad was a fiscal conservative, but he was also a feminist. We always had great dinner conversations. Those are fond memories. Both she and my dad were excellent cooks.”
The couple moved to California in 2006 to be closer to their children and grandchildren. Nancy Grape’s husband died May 23, 2014.
Her daughter said one of her favorite times of year was Christmas. The Grapes hosted Christmas in Maine for many years.
“She loved (having) everyone together,” Carol Grape said.
Nancy Grape (Family photo)