Obituary: Nancy Truitt Arce

Teacher, public servant, poet

Nancy Arce, a longtime Claremont resident, died on December 7, 2016. She was 86.

She was born in Texas on August 12, 1930 and grew up in Oakland. At just 16, she went to Stanford University. There she studied to become a teacher and met her future husband, a returned soldier named William “Bill” Arce. The couple married in 1950 and a year later Nancy graduated cum laude from Stanford and took a job as a teacher.

Mrs. Arce moved to Claremont in 1956 when her husband joined the athletic department at Pomona College and shortly after became the founding athletic director at Claremont McKenna College, then Claremont Men’s College.

Three areas meant much in Nancy’s life: her family, her work in education and her wide range of public service activities. She had a long and distinguished career as a teacher in Claremont. She started as a substitute, but found her real interest in teaching learning-disabled students. She earned a Master of Special Education at Cal State San Bernardino and ended up working for 25 years in the Claremont Unified School District, mentoring generations of young students at El Roble and La Puerta intermediate schools through the ‘70s and ‘80s. 

Mrs. Arce quickly realized the importance of a student’s whole support system in learning success. Never one to let a good idea drop, she developed a program in 1985 called Supportive Parents Are Necessary (SPAN) to help parents understand how best to support their special needs children. For the next 10 years, she ran this program for the district. Meanwhile her family grew, in 1953 with a son, Jim, in 1955 with a daughter, Judy, and in 1958 with a son, Jeff.

Mr. Arce’s career also took off, but in an unusual direction as he began to combine his job at CMC with a role that he created for himself to build links with people overseas through working with baseball. In 1961, the Arce family moved to the Netherlands for 18 months when Bill was hired to work with and improve the developing Dutch baseball program. Nancy took it all in stride, living in a small village and learning to speak Dutch. She had a gift for making and keeping friends, and several people became lifelong friends that they visited many, many times in the coming years. 

Over the following decades, Nancy supported Bill as he “took baseball to the world.” In 1982, even before official diplomatic relations had been established, they spent some cold winter months in Kunming, China at the invitation of the Chinese government. Mr. Arce taught the “Little Red Book (of Baseball)” to Chinese coaches, while Mrs. Arce shared her knowledge of special education and taught English. This was the first of five visits to China through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Over the following decades, in the many, many countries that she visited with Bill thanks to baseball, Mrs. Arce tasked herself with exploring the role of women in these different cultures. Her interviews led to many friendships, and often to presentations to societies. 

Even with all the work and travels that Nancy undertook in supporting Bill and raising their three children, she still found time to be very active in the Claremont community. She was president of the Claremont Presbyterian Women’s Association and active in the Campus Women’s Association, becoming treasurer and then president. At just 30 years old, she became the second woman to be an Elder in the Claremont Presbyterian Church, a post she held several times. 

She started the first Mission Fair, to inform the community about mission activities in the world. She was president of the Parent Faculty Associations for three different schools. For 10 years, Mrs. Arce was chair of the board for Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic/Learning Ally, where she also exhibited her fundraising skills by organizing and leading their annual art auction fundraiser for 20 years. Mrs. Arce was active in PEO and also led a Christian meditation group for many years at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, where she and Mr. Arce lived.

She said goodbye to her husband earlier this year when he passed away on March 7, 2016.  Her surviving family share that they are happy Bill and Nancy can be together again, but she will still be sadly missed by her many friends in Claremont; her sister Jody Stringer; her brother Ed Truitt; and her two sons and daughter, as well as nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Nancy loved writing poetry and was a frequent contributor to the Adventures in Haiku column in the COURIER. The following is one of her haikus, published Friday, September 4, 2015: “Night time in Claremont/Notice the full, glowing moon/It lit up the sky.”

A service will be held on Wednesday, January 4, 2017 at 2 p.m. at Claremont Presbyterian Church, 1111 N. Mountain Ave. in Claremont.

In lieu of flowers, her family suggests donations be made to the William B. Arce Scholarship Fund c/o Office of Development, Claremont McKenna College, 400 N. Claremont Blvd., Claremont CA 91711 ( or the Mt. San Antonio Gardens Scholarship Fund, c/o Mt. San Antonio Gardens, Att: Accounting Dept., 900 E. Harrison Ave. Pomona, CA 91767.


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