Written by Bryan Finnigan
“Sometimes when I fall off into sleep, I dream of jumping into that picture. For 15 years I could see the ocean from my home in Escondido. Me and the kids would have to stand on the sidewalk and look but we could see it…This picture is my ocean view now.”
Nancy Ray says she has always had a strong connection with the ocean. A large print she has on her wall of a single wave at its crest is a powerful image Nancy loves to get lost in. And it’s no surprise she has such admiration and respect for the ocean as it represents strength, constant motion, and for many, a call to adventure. All of which Nancy knows firsthand.
Raised in Lincoln Nebraska, Nancy’s family moved around a lot due to the nature of the oil industry where she says her father worked for Halliburton. “He was an oil man. My sister and I would move from place to place; new house to new house all the time. One time the permits were due and Mom and Dad had to sell the house and we had to move again.” Nancy jokes that she grew up in 18 states, Texas and Illinois being just two of the many places she called home. Even though Nancy’s scenery changed often throughout her childhood there’s one thing that remained stable; her desire to pursue a career in journalism.
“It was in Jr. High School when I started writing stories for the school paper. It was a class. They would bring the news to me because everyone wanted their name in the paper. Then I would take the story and write it. When I was 18 I started writing part-time for the Lincoln Star Newspaper. For some reason they had all the girls working the night shift. I never understood why. The night is when it’s the most dangerous.”
But Nancy would find out that danger was all part of the job being an investigative reporter. After moving to Connecticut to get her Master’s degree in Journalism she was quickly back at the paper full time doing what she loves best.
“There was a famous murder trail I was covering. One night I was following the accused in my car when they stopped and got out. They started walking toward my car and I ran and hid in an outside toilet. I hid until they left. They didn’t search too much but I followed at a longer distance from then on. I was the “switchman” for that trial. I would report to all the major media outlets what was happening during the trial. My parents didn’t want me to get too close to that story. I told them that I was just working “on the edges.” That was an exciting time. I was good at writing but that’s really where I learned how to write.”
Doing a little investigative reporting of my own I found out that Nancy’s writing career had more of an impact than she leads on. Not only did Nancy write for several papers including the LA Times she was also the first to report from the thick of the LA riots in 1992. After moving her family to San Diego she became the first ever female editor of the Union Tribute. Her hard work and determination earned the recognition and respect of many and she has collected a number of awards for her achievements in a traditionally male dominated field. But to Nancy it was just all part of the job.
“That paper (The Tribune) was the best group of writers I have ever worked with.”
From a life of tailing murderers to covering history-defining moments, Nancy is adjusting to a quieter pace and now has time to reflect on her long life. Sitting in front of her picture of the ocean Nancy’s memories, like the tides, wash in and out at a graceful pace; giving us small glimpses into the depths of her experiences. Thoughts of her two children and husband of nine years would surface, as well as thoughts of her mother. Nancy enjoys thinking of her family and for a woman whose life was dedicated to getting all the facts, when it comes to family, the facts are ones she keeps quietly in her heart.
“I quit writing years ago. The Escondido paper was the last one.”
While Nancy doesn’t have a favorite writer she is “very impressed” with those who can write novels. She claims to never have had the desire to write a novel herself but when asked if she would ever consider sitting down to write one I witnessed a plot quickly unfold before me.
“It would be about a small hometown with a lot of characters. One of them has to die. And another one moves the New York to pursue big money…but I’m not quite sure.”
Not far from Nancy’s beloved ocean picture is an Electra 120 typewriter. A typewriter that Nancy says is used for writing letters to friends. When I asked her if she would consider using her time to write that novel her gaze broke away from her beloved view of the ocean. With a chuckle and slight grin she looked at me.
“Who knows, maybe I will…”
Knowing Nancy’s trailblazing spirit she just may write that novel. And prove to the world that you’re never too old to answer a call to adventure.
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