Duluth News Tribune

Nancy Robbins Willard Fifield, 89, died at St. Luke’s hospice Duluth Feb. 11, 2014, after a brief illness.

Nancy was born the third of four children to Dorothy and Grant Willard in Mankato, Minn., on Nov. 21, 1924. A graduate of Mankato High School, she earned an undergraduate degree from MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., in 1947. She met a young medical student named Malcolm “Mac” Fifield at a party in 1946, and the two were married in December 1947. The union was a happy one, lasting more than 60 years and producing seven children.

Everyone who met Nancy remarked on her sweet disposition. She was kind to all: friendly and bubbly. She was a devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who reveled in the lives of her family and was never happier than when sitting in a chair, knitting and surrounded by her “brood.” She counted among her children several international exchange students and other special kids who had lived under her roof now and again. She loved living in the Northland: sailing on Lake Superior, organizing picnics on the shore, taking her kids to Park Point or hiking up Hunter’s Hill to marvel at the autumn foliage.

Nancy was involved in many charitable and volunteer activities in Duluth, including the Junior League, of which she was once named Sustainer of the Year; Meals-on-Wheels; AFS Intercultural Programs; the Duluth Women’s Club; P-FLAG; and P.E.O. In 1978 she was named “Woman of the Year” at the Port Cities Luncheon. She was a very active member of Pilgrim Congregational Church, arranging flowers weekly for the Sunday service and singing in the choir. Her artistic talents included creating beautiful pieces of crewel embroidery and knitting countless sweaters, Christmas stockings, and baby afghans. Her hands were always busy.

Nancy had a keen lifelong interest in helping people with disabilities, both physical and mental. In the mid-1960s she helped found the Outlook Club, a regular gathering for people with disabilities around the Twin Ports. Outlook provided a low-key social outlet for the members and the volunteers that Nancy organized to provide transportation. Her advocacy for people with disabilities led to her serving on the board of directors of Courage Center in Golden Valley and her involvement with Courage Homecrafters for many years.

Nancy loved traveling and learning. She and Mac visited Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, Africa, Europe, and many parts of the U.S. and Canada. In retirement, they enjoyed traveling around North America in their motor home, taking part in Elderhostels and making new friends. And they loved attending UMD’s University for Seniors.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Grant R. and Dorothy H. Willard; brother John W. Willard; grandson Jeffrey M. Frigaard; daughter-in-law Carolyn M. McCann; and her dear husband, Malcolm M. Fifield.

Nancy is survived by her sister, Margery W. Ertsgaard, of Medford, Ore.; brother David H. Willard of Green Valley, Ariz.; children Douglas H. Fifield, Lynne R. (Jerome) Frigaard, Scott M. (Pam) Fifield and Jeffrey G. (Marilyn) Fifield, all of Duluth, Lisa J. (Steve) Snodderly of Portland, Ore., Ann W. (Dário) Borim of Dartmouth, Mass., and Peter I. (John P. Carroll) Fifield of New York; 15 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Her family would like to thank the staff of Ecumen Lakeshore and St. Luke’s hospital and hospice in Duluth.

In lieu of flowers, they ask that memorial gifts be made to Pilgrim Congregational Church UCC ( or CHUM (

Nancy’s family will hold two celebrations of her life:

First one begins with a visitation from 10 until the 11 a.m. service Monday, Feb. 17, in Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2310 E. Fourth St. in Duluth.

The second will be held Friday, Aug. 8, in Duluth.

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