Nancy Aub Gleason, a longtime resident of Beacon Hill and Francestown, N.H., died of a brain hemorrhage on June 5. She was 79.
Born and raised in Belmont, Mass., Mrs. Gleason was a psychiatric social worker by training and served for 20 years in that capacity at Wellesley College’s Stone Center, where she specialized in counseling, eating disorders and women’s addictions.
Mrs. Gleason also served as president of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM), as well as a board member of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.
“Nancy Gleason was a role model for me and for countless others,” wrote Marty Walz, PPLM president and CEO. “Her gentle voice and calm demeanor might fool those who didn’t know her, but she spoke with wisdom born from experience and lived her life with a fierce resolve to pursue what she believed to be right.”
Former PPLM CEO Diane Luby said, “Nancy could always be counted on to tell us when we did well and were on target and, in her gracious, direct way equally able to nudge you to do more or to take a stronger stand. She didn’t miss a trick and was a loyal, long-term friend to PPLM, and to so many of us personally.”
Nicki Nichols Gamble, who served as CEO of PPLM from 1974 to 1999, remembers Mrs. Gleason as a “networker, fundraiser, educator, social worker, organizer, marcher and leader.”
“Nancy Gleason said ‘yes’ to most things that were asked of her, Gamble said. “When she said ‘yes,’ it was done in a New York nano-second. And when it was done, it was usually done successfully.”
Additionally, Mrs. Gleason served as a board member of Goddard House, Rutland Corner House, the Composers Conference and Germaine Lawrence.
Her commitment to women’s issues was grounded by her education, first at Radcliffe College and later at Simmons School of Social Work.
Sandy Righter, a friend and neighbor of Mrs. Brewster’s since 1980 and fellow psychiatric social worker, recalls her as a “great friend to the underdog.”
“Nancy was a leader in her field and a very warm and engaging person,” Righter said. “One of our mutual male friends described her as ‘beautiful and elegant.’ She was very much a feminist, and whatever she was doing, she brought that into it.”
An avid violist, Mrs. Gleason played in many chamber groups right up until her death. She also served on the board of the Composers Conference.
Mrs. Gleason adored traveling, especially in Europe. She was an avid gardener, lover of the arts and advocate and fundraiser for many local organizations and progressive political causes. Awards from both Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and Simmons School of Social Work recognized her service.
Sally Brewster, a close friend and former neighbor of Mrs. Brewster’s, said she was a “real renaissance woman.”
“Nancy gave a lot of political fundraisers, and was very engaged in public and civic affairs,” Brewster said. “She was just a well-rounded and very intelligent person.”
Mrs. Gleason is survived by her beloved husband of 55 years, Herbert, as well as their daughter Alice Gleason and husband Stephen Lane of New York City; and their son David Gleason, his wife Sonia Caus Gleason and grandsons Christopher and Matteo, all of Jamaica Plain.
Mrs. Gleason was a member of Arlington Street Church, where there will be a memorial service for her on Friday, July 12, at 11 a.m.