Grace Nutt

Obituary of Grace Nutt

There were two occasions every year Grace Nutt looked forward to more than anything else: a week at the end of June at the Jersey Shore and four days after Christmas at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos--both of them with her beloved and ever-growing family. When she died Friday January 27, 2017 at home in Watchung at the age of 90, she left behind not only 5 children, 12 grandchildren and their spouses, but legions of broken hearts as well.


Grace Quaranta Nutt was born March 20, 1926 on Staten Island, N.Y., one of six daughters of Art and Peg Quaranta. She graduated from Notre Dame Academy on Staten Island and worked as a secretary on Wall St. After marrying David Tysen Nutt in November 1950, the couple eventually settled in Scotch Plains where they lived for more than 30 years. They later resided in Jamesburg before moving to Watchung 11 years ago. She was a parishioner of St. Bernard's Church in Plainfield and then St. Mary's Stony Hill in Watchung. An avid golfer and skier she was predeceased by her husband of 65 years.


Grace is survived by her children David Tysen Nutt, Jr. (Jane), Eva Nies (Robert) Amy Ellis Nutt, Cora Chemidlin (David) and Kate Barry (Patrick); and grandchildren Brendan, Evan (Mackenzie),Rachel (Scott), Conor, Cullen, Madeline, Blair, Jordan, Grant, Bridget, Reid and Patrick. Also surviving are her two sisters Lillian Moran and Marilyn Mullaney.


The visitation will be held on Sunday January 29, 2017 from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm at Higgins Home for Funerals, 752 Mountain Blvd. Watchung NJ 07069. A funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 am on Monday January 30, 2017 at St. Mary's Stony Hill RC Church, 225 Mountain Blvd. Watchung NJ.




By Amy Ellis Nutt


“Each of you had an hour, or perhaps not even an hour, a barely measurable time between two moments,” the German poet Rilke wrote, “when you were granted a sense of being. Everything. Your veins flowed with being.”

My mother, our mother, Nanny, Gram, Grace…Amazing Grace…flowed with being every day of her life. She had passion and panache, intelligence and glamour, she was dramatic and hilarious, tender and yet at times tyrannical. She was the most impatient woman on the face of the earth, and she was the most giving. More than anything else, she loved greatly, and she was greatly loved. And she leaves behind legions of broken hearts.

She was part Lucille Ball, part Auntie Mame, part Jackie O, part Grace Kelly: sophisticated, stylish, the life of the party. And, of course, she dressed to the nines, proudly accessorizing her outfits with her bountiful costume jewelry. There were several axioms in her life: a turtleneck can cover a multitude of sins; pasta is a panacea for nearly anything; and never, ever – or as she would say, “nevah, evah”-- leave home without your lippy.

In her bathroom, just last week, I counted 15 lipsticks -- nine in her favorite Revlon color, #575, called “Love That Pink.”

More than anyone I’ve ever known, our mother lived in the present, without regrets. She was a romantic without sentimentality. Though she cherished family traditions, she did not treasure family objects, perhaps because she needed no reminders of the past. Her memory was prodigious – the phone number of the butcher her mother called each week; the name of the British sailors her friends met at the USO during World War II, the dresses she wore for every dance, every party, every date. Our mother remembered, and often recalled to us, the smell of a man’s hair tonic the first time she was kissed, the feel of her wedding dress against her skin as she stood in the back of the church before walking down the aisle, the wetness of the towel she wrapped her first baby, Ty, in after giving him a bath.

She drove fast, shopped fast, talked fast. Growing up, our mother owned a series of convertibles including a 1968 metallic blue Mustang with a white rag top, sometimes dropping us off at grammar school in it. She’s also the only person I’ve ever known who received two speeding tickets from the same police officer within 15 minutes on one of those trips to school and back home.

Our mother did not delay or deliberate. She was a full-throttle, drink-to-the-lees kind of person who knew only one speed: faster. Which was scary for a number of reasons, like the time a grade school friend of one of my sisters told her, “Hey, I just saw your mother driving down Martine Ave. She was reading a book!”

Life was too short for our mother to debate which dress, which brand, which Christmas present to buy. She did not waste time, and she planned for that, which is why for most of our lives growing up, our mother made Christmas breakfast the night BEFORE, then froze it, including the buttered English Muffins, the easier to defrost in the morning so she could enjoy the time with her family.

Our mother lived for her children and especially her 12 grandchildren, of whom she was SO proud. As an adult, I spoke to her nearly every day, as she was proud to say she spoke to hers. And because she was the most efficient woman ever born, often those two qualities intersected, including when she sent us all off to college with stacks of stamped, self-addressed postcards on which she’d actually typed both the salutation, “Dear Mom” AND the valediction, “Love, Amy,” so that all I had to do was write SOMETHING, ANYTHING, and drop it into the mail.

If the currency of a person’s life can be counted in the lives they touched, my mother’s was a price above rubies.

She never hesitated to engage or embrace a stranger, and found something fascinating about nearly everyone she met. Though she never attended college she wanted to, but my grandfather, who had six daughters, didn’t believe in higher education for girls. She was smarter than most graduates, and could come up with percentages and ratios faster than a calculator. She would have been a wonderful reporter. She preferred to sit with her back to the wall in restaurants so that she could observe people coming and going, and she was a gifted writer, who penned the most eloquent letters. When texting became the communication du jour, she learned to do that, too, the better to keep in touch with her grandchildren. Whatever talent I have as an author and journalist, I owe to her.

Growing up, I had the only mother who urged me not to study so hard and instead to go out and have fun. Indeed, she was the kind of mother our friends envied, which is why they often came to her with their problems, and when there were no more problems, they just came to her to talk. She was, it goes without saying, a storyteller and counselor par excellence.

A dear friend wrote to me the other day saying of mom, “She wove a wonderful tapestry, connecting the people she loved so that no one would feel adrift even when she was gone.”

Our mother would want me to say she was a woman of deep faith who read the works of Teilhard de Chardin, but who channeled her religion into everyday acts of kindness – baking and cooking for sick friends, taping tips on the top of the garbage can for the sanitation workers, once even anonymously sending cash to an old friend in need, by mailing the envelopes from New York so he wouldn’t be able to trace the money back to her.

“…This is how you ascertain the truth of spiritual experience:” the author Christian Wiman writes. “It propels you back toward the world and other people, and not simply more deeply within yourself.”

Grace Nutt was a woman in full – every day of her life. And she was the most interesting person I’ve ever known. I would be remiss not to remind you that she loved playing games, and that included charades, Bananagrams and especially Scrabble. For many years she and my father played a daily game and kept a running score. At the time of my father’s death last May they’d each accumulated more than 10,000 points. Appropriately, I don’t remember who was ahead.

I last played with my mother two days before this past Christmas. It was a rubber match. At Thanksgiving, she’d beaten me 291 to 270, and the next day I beat her like a drum, 316 to 229. Perhaps it’s fitting that her final game came down to her final move, a 13-point double-letter word that pushed her over the top, beating me 257 to 256.

It is a loss I will cherish to my dying day.

How do you sum up a life? For people such as our mother, you don’t.

The poet Mary Oliver writes that “Every day has something in it whose name is Forever.” For me, for my family, for many of you, Forever’s name will always be Grace.

Last year I came across a quote from the 19th century English poet Sarah Williams, and when I shared it with my mother she loved it so much she asked that I read it at her funeral:

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; for I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”