Cover photo for Nancy Mae Tucholski's Obituary

Nancy Mae Tucholski

Nancy Tucholski, 81, a long-time resident of Chandler, Arizona, passed away peacefully in her home on Sunday afternoon, June 4, 2023. Her daughter Janet was by her side, and her two granddaughters Katie (25) and Abbey (20) were also nearby. She is preceded in death by her loving husband of 60 years, Leon “Art” Tucholski, her parents Harold and Ruby (Matevia) Clayton, and sister Eunice vasBinder (Clayton).

Nancy Mae Clayton was born on August 1, 1941, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and was the middle child of three girls. She grew up in Belleville, Michigan, and attended Belleville High School and after graduating took a part-time job at Hydra-Matic (a division of GM), while attending Cleary Business College. It is there she met the love of her life, Art Tucholski, on her first day of work in 1962. The two began dating and after only two months, Art proposed. She agreed to marry him, but only after being engaged for one year; they married one year later on April 20, 1963. Nancy gave birth to her daughter & only child, Janet in April 1964. While mastering motherhood Nancy attended night school at Eastern Michigan University and on June 5, 1971, received her Bachelor of Science degree.

In 1972, the Tucholski’s moved to Arizona, to a warmer climate due to Janet’s life-threatening illness, and within 1 year they were living in a custom-built home in Chandler where they lived together for over 50 years.

Nancy began working at Chandler High School as an English teacher, where she taught for several years. While there, she noticed there were no classes offering Arizona’s beautiful Native American culture, so she began writing proposals and applying for grants to develop a ‘Native American History’ class. After getting the green light she began developing the class by traveling throughout the southwestern states with her family. Together, she and Art photographed and documented local tribes by attending ceremonies, and collecting pottery, baskets, and other artifacts to build her class. From the first day she taught it, the class was well-received by all, and every class was at capacity.

Nancy began her Master’s program at Arizona State University and received her Master of Arts & Education (Counseling) degree in August 1976. After teaching at Chandler High, she transferred to Galveston Elementary as their elementary school counselor. There, she helped many children and became well-known for giving stuffed animals to any child who came to visit. She shared her counsel and her heart with these children, and they loved and trusted her in return.

While acclimating to the Arizona lifestyle, Nancy observed so many children of migrant workers working in the fields. Nancy created an incentive program to help get children out of the fields and into the classroom, providing them with an education while their parents worked. These children mattered to her too. Again, she began writing proposals and applying for grants, and the initiative was approved. The Migrant Education Program was born and helped to bring these children into the classroom while offering outreach services to the families. This program became instrumental for Chandler.

Nancy retired from the Chandler School District on June 5, 1998, and together, she and Art traveled all over the US, including many trips to Hawaii. In 1997, Nancy became a ‘Nana’ to her granddaughter, Katie, and then again in 2002, with Abbey. She and Art were fortunate enough to provide childcare 2-3 days a week for both girls while Janet continued working.

Nancy also had a lengthy volunteer career with many valley animal rescues. She was lovingly known as ‘Nancy T’ to most everyone within the tight-knit rescue community and was passionate about the homeless pet crisis. She was a long-time advocate and devoted supporter of both TNR and related adoption groups. First stepping into cat rescue in 1993, with Friends For Life Animal Sanctuary, she helped with adoptions, fundraising, and surgery assistance. For the next 25 years, she volunteered at Heritage, AzCATs, Prestige Animal Clinic, Altered Tails, the Arizona Humane Society, Spay Neuter Hotline, ALF, and the Animal Defense League of Arizona. She received numerous awards and served on many Boards of Directors. Nancy was instrumental in the formation of ALF (Animal Loving Friends) beginning in the late 1990s and helped them incorporate with the State of Arizona and obtain their Arizona non-profit status. In the end, Nancy was considered a treasured icon in the cat and animal rescue community and was the driving force for so many.

Nancy’s mantra was to ‘Live your dash to the fullest’ – and she did just that. She made a difference in our community and the world with her compassion, kindness, and selflessness.  She shared with those close to her, “Do not let the actions of others ruin your inner peace”. She was an advocate for those who did not have a voice and needed rescuing – whether it be a neglected child at school, a migrant child in the field, or a homeless animal. There will be a noticeable void in the ‘rescue’ community for some time. Nancy and Art had a wonderful, long life together and were at each other’s side for well over 60 years. One can only smile now, knowing they are together once again.

The family would like to thank everyone who has reached out to them during these extremely challenging few months and ask that in lieu of flowers, please consider donating in Nancy Tucholski’s honor to either one of these wonderful charities. The below organizations were very dear to Nancy’s heart and were fortunate enough to have her as their selfless Champion:

ALF, Animal Loving Friends

, 7650 S McClintock Drive, Ste. #103-120 Tempe AZ 85284

Altered Tails

, 950 W. Hatcher Road, Phoenix, AZ 85021

East Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation League, 967 S. Palo Verde St., Mesa, AZ 85208

For those who wish to attend, there will be a Celebration of Life service on Saturday, July 29, 2023 at 12:00 PM (Noon), at Whitney & Murphy Bueler Mortuary & Chapel, 14 W. Hulet Drive, Chandler, AZ. Visitors may come earlier at 11:00 AM to pay their respects to the family and visit with others prior to the service commencing at 12:00 PM (Noon).
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Nancy Mae Tucholski, please visit our flower store.


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