Nancy J. McHugh, 74, of Fredericksburg, passed away on Sunday, May 12, 2019 at Mary Washington Hospital.
Nancy was born and raised in Dundalk, the daughter of George and Jackie Panzer. She was a loving, generous, and fiercely independent lady. After graduating from Dundalk High school in 1963, she became a radiologic technologist in 1965, a profession in which she excelled for 48 years. During her career, she worked at Union Memorial Hospital, as a practice manager and x-ray technician for Dr. Jack Gordon, and at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, from which she retired in 2013. Wherever she went, she set the standard for dedication to her patients, her profession, and her colleagues. Nancy will be forever remembered at St. Joseph’s for “Chocolate Mondays” in the emergency x-ray department, for never forgetting a birthday, and for making sure that anyone who was experiencing financial difficulties got the first chance at overtime hours.
Nancy was devoted to her friends and family, and her days were filled with spending time with the people and pursuits she loved. An irrepressible teller of jokes and dropper of puns, she brought uproarious laughter to any gathering, whether a casual lunch with friends or a formal holiday dinner. Her friends and family knew well that little grin that meant she was brewing a good one. From holidays and special occasions at Thelma’s, to the annual cousins’ party at Bruz’s, to many “Happy Hours” shared with the “Old-Timers” of St. Joe’s, to gatherings of neighbors on front porches in summer, her humor and her heart made her company a pleasure to all.
Nancy loved holidays, and celebrated every one with themed gifts and a complete changeover of her household décor, including the shower and window curtains. Christmas at her house was an all-out festival of beautiful lights, an extravagantly decorated tree, and exquisitely wrapped gifts for everyone she loved. It was her favorite holiday from the time she was a little girl, awakening on Christmas morning to find a tree, hung with tinsel strand by strand, that hadn’t been there the night before. Her Christmas cookies were legendary, each batch baked with love and packaged like the crown jewels they were. If you ever received a package of Christmas cookies from Nancy, you felt like a national treasure – and in her heart, you were.
Nancy loved to travel, and did so extensively, but her heart belonged to Ocean City. The consummate Marylander, she was at her happiest with sand in her toes, sun on her face, a little Old Bay still sticking to her fingers, defending her Thrasher’s fries from marauding seagulls while waiting in line for a bucket of caramel corn from Dolle’s to take home, and she never left without a custard from Dumser’s. Nancy taught her daughter and grandchildren how to make a “beach in a bottle” to bring home, so they’d never be too far from the ocean, and was always looking forward to her next trip to hear the crash of the Atlantic Ocean on the sand.
Nancy’s gardens at home were always immaculately tended. She loved hydrangeas, azaleas, hostas, and forsythias, and had a flair for getting pachysandra to stay where she wanted it. Her birdfeeders were always filled with the perfect blend of seed to attract the most colorful songbirds, and she particularly delighted in seeing bright red cardinals when the trees were bare for winter. If you chanced to call her while she was sitting on her porch, you were likely to get a running commentary on the feathered visitor population, along with some invective, directed at raiding squirrels. She was an ardent conservationist as well, devoted to preserving the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
Nancy’s greatest loves, though, were her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. From the nights in a two bedroom apartment playing Scrabble or watching movies on a VCR rented from Greetings and Readings, to being the first person who got to hold her first grandchild, Nancy’s presence and influence were constant and profound. Nancy taught her daughter about all the things that really mattered, and then helped teach her grandchildren that authentic love doesn’t always look like shiny paper and pretty ribbons. Often, and at its best, love gets dirt under its fingernails, and sometimes it bleeds. From Disney movies and 80s music to her absolute belief that there is no job beneath any person’s dignity, Nancy shared the best of herself with her family.
Nancy was small in stature, but that just meant she was concentrated awesomeness, and her loss leaves a very large hole in a great many lives.
She leaves to carry on her legacy a daughter and her husband, Kelly and Emmanuel Lucia; grandchildren Jacqueline, Dorothy, George, Salvatore, and Donatello Lucia; along with a great host of beloved friends and relatives.
There will be neither a funeral nor a memorial service, at her vehement insistence. Nancy wanted those who loved her to celebrate her life instead of grieving her death, and the celebration she wanted will take place later in the summer. If you would like to honor her in the meantime, you could contribute to Doctors without Borders, Meals on Wheels, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, or the Kitchen Fund at St. Jude Catholic Church in Fredericksburg, VA, all of which were dear to her and received her regular contributions.