Saturday, September 23, 2023
September 23, 2023

JAMES, Nancy Rennie

1925 – 2023

Nancy Rennie James passed away on 20 June 2023, at Lady Minto Hospital, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.Nancy was born in Chicago in 1925, a “child of the depression” she would say, and it affected her for life. Her father, an out-of-work electrical engineer, took a teaching job at no salary. Her mother fed out-of-work men on the back porch.

Valedictorian at Sutherland High School, she wanted to be a “hermit in a canoe”, to the great consternation of her very social mother. She graduated from Carleton College, Northfi eld, Minnesota, in 1947 with a B.A., tuition being paid by her brothers. Nancy held Carleton in high regard. She later graduated from Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa, in 1952 with a Ph.D. in physics, although she said she would have been a better engineer than physicist.

In Ames, Nancy met and married Allen, a geneticist.  They spent their early married life in Deep River, Ontario, a small company town for Atomic Energy of Canada. Surrounded by forest and canoe country, it was surely heaven for her. There she raised four boys, played French horn in the local orchestra, and rose to be Division Commissioner for the Girl Guides.  In 1970, she and Allen moved the family to Ottawa, Ontario. There she worked as the Budget Offi cer for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council until Allen’s death in 1989.

Nancy discovered Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, and moved there in the early 1990’s.  There she had her own house designed and built. It was the ideal place for her; she never wanted to move again. With the help of truly exceptional friends, she was able to live in her own house until her passing.

For a hermit in a canoe, she travelled far, living in 5 countries and visiting more than 60 countries, from Svalbard, Norway, in the far north to Antarctica in the south.

She will be greatly missed by her children, grandchildren, and a diverse collection of very dear friends


  1. Our lives were so enriched by our friendship with Nancy. We were always enlightened during our times together, generally sharing the love of nature that surrounded us as we visited in her aerie. We would urge Nancy to share her travel experiences with us, which she did modestly. We watched in awe as she tuned her piano using many dimes and as she built her canoe. A remarkable lady.
    Sid and Lyda Smith


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Salt Spring Island
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