Obituary: Laura Nancy Emerson
A long life devoted to family and friends
Laura Nancy (Bassett) Emerson, 98, died April 23 at home in Mt. San Antonio Gardens in Claremont.
Born to Ray and Laura Bassett in Valley City, North Dakota, on August 10, 1922, young Nancy moved with her family to Long Beach, California. It was the California dream!
Her memories of childhood were pleasant. With family and friends, she enjoyed many social activities, including parties, picnics, dances, and going to the movies. Her enthusiasm for road trips began in her youth; whether to the beach, the mountains, the desert, or to “wherever the road leads,” each locale had its own special appeal.
Following graduation from Long Beach Poly High in 1938, she attended UCLA, where the vivacious and popular coed joined Delta Gamma sorority.
At the age of 21 she met and married Fred C. Emerson, Jr. Their wedding on December 28, 1943, marked the beginning of a decades-long love affair. An inseparable pair, they moved to Claremont, where they built a loving family (including beloved horses, dogs and cats), a beauty-filled home, a well-respected optometry practice, and a deep commitment to their community.
Active in the Assistance League, she was also an energetic volunteer and advocate for Casa Colina and the Crippled Children’s Society (now known as AbilityFirst). She was a member of St. Ambrose Episcopal Church.
An accomplished seamstress and an outstanding cook, she excelled in the arts of homemaking. Shortly before she passed, she confessed to a secret truth regarding a particular Christmas Eve crown roast: it had slipped off the platter on its way to the elegant holiday table, landing fully-upright on the kitchen floor. The regal roast was picked up, patted off, and presented to the unsuspecting guests with her customary flourish, captivating smile, and twinkle in her eye.
Oh, how she loved parties! From a casual get-together by the pool to a formal philanthropic gala, she enjoyed socializing with her many acquaintances, and any event that included their U.S. Navy friends was cause for special celebration. She loved to dance and sing, even dreaming in her youth of becoming a singer with a big band.
Above all, she cherished her role as a mother. Son Fred, III (or “Fritz,” as he later was called) was born with multiple physical challenges; he knew that he couldn’t have chosen a better, more devoted mother. Her daughter Sarah also felt her mother’s continuing love and support, especially as it related to Sarah’s passion for Tennessee Walking Horses, her affection for Montana, and her penchant for writing. Whatever was best for her children was what their mother wanted most.
As much as Nancy Emerson loved Claremont, there was another spot that also captured her heart: Flathead Lake, Montana. Each summer, for many years, she and Fred spent weeks at their cabin on the lake. She relished those days when, immersed in nature, she said, “I felt most like myself.”
Ms. Emerson was predeceased by her husband, her son, and—in 2020—her sister Jean (Bassett) Kegler. The loss of her “big sister” was a heavy blow, as was the endless isolation of the pandemic.
Survivors include her dear daughter Sarah C. Baxter, of Lewistown, Montana; niece Jean-Ellen Kegler and her husband Russ Rogers, of Eugene, Oregon; nephew Dan Kegler and his wife Lori, of San Pedro, California; and new generations of nieces and nephews.
“It isn’t difficult for us to imagine the joyful scene as Nancy reunites with Fred,” her family shared. “In each other’s arms again, they are dancing; her skirt billows as she whirls, her face aglow, her joy reborn.”
All are invited to remember Nancy in whatever way you wish. There will be no formal memorial or burial service, but her remains will lie with her husband and son in Oak Park Cemetery, Claremont.
She would probably invite you to drop by.