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Nancy Anderson

  • On December 2, 2020

A nearly fat-free turkey and bison mixture called a “bisurkey.” Tubby the pig’s fifth birthday at a local farm. A squirrel her family considered a pet. For decades, Nancy Anderson entertained readers in Pittsburgh and New Kensington with lively newspaper columns about food and family life.

Ms. Anderson died Sunday of complications from dementia. She was 79.

Ms. Anderson was born and raised in New Kensington and got a job there working for the Valley Daily News, where she met her husband, George Anderson.

In the 1970s, she wrote a column for the newspaper — which had merged into the Valley News Dispatch — called “Rated G,” where she detailed family life as a mother of two children. Her son Scott Anderson remembers the thrill of seeing his name in the paper as his mother chronicled backyard softball games, orchestra concerts and goings-on with friends and teachers.

“It would just be funny to read what your antics were,” said her son, of Upper St. Clair. “They were a funny and amazing time capsule of our life together.”

While Ms. Anderson was writing her column for the Valley News Dispatch, her husband was working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he held several writing and editing positions including as the paper’s film critic. Their social life included seeing movies and theater performances that Mr. Anderson would write about — including trips to the Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

The Andersons would throw a huge Memorial Day party at their Edgewood home attended by some of the city’s top jazz musicians, who would play music from the afternoon until after midnight, said her son.

Ms. Anderson left the Valley News Dispatch in the late 1970s, said her son, and threw herself into creative community projects. She put together the Edgewood local newspaper on their dining room table and began the Edgewood tradition of residents lighting luminerias along their sidewalks on Christmas Eve. The program was later taken on by the Edgewood Fire Department and has continued to this day.

She enjoyed cooking and usually made two dinners every night — a hamburger or other bland item for her husband and a more adventurous meal for herself and the children.

She was also involved in the Edgewood schools, volunteering as a tutor for children who needed help. When her son was in the sixth grade, she created the role of “mystery limericist,” writing unsigned limerick poems on the classroom blackboard while the class was out of the room. A massive limerick at the end of the year incorporated the names of all the children in the class.

In 1992, Ms. Anderson’s husband died at age 60. A couple years later, Ms. Anderson joined the Post-Gazette.

“She was very friendly, very warm and really smart,” said former Post-Gazette managing editor Sue Smith. “She just had a really sharp mind and a welcoming spirit.”

She soon found a home in the food section and was given her own column, “Nibbles,” which ran from 1996 until her retirement in 2007. The column was an odds and ends variety of profiles, event listings and recipes held together by Ms. Anderson’s engaging writing style. “She had her own personality in the columns she would write,” said Ms. Smith. “She was such a self-starter and had so many ideas. She enjoyed having her own piece of real estate.”

Ms. Anderson wrote more than 550 Nibbles columns for the Post-Gazette, encompassing, as she wrote in her farewell column, everything from “food fests, cooking classes, benefits, teas and Slow Food dinners to seasonal bakery specials, cookbooks, contests, cheese tastings, buckwheat suppers, ethnic fairs, Oktoberfests, pumpkin fests, trans-fat and gluten-free foods, a crackpot health drink with Sumatran goji berries, even a place to go dressed like a burrito on Halloween.”

After retirement, she continued her involvement in journalism, serving as treasurer of the Women’s Press Club of Pittsburgh.

“I could always count on her,” said former president Kellie Gormly, remembering Ms. Anderson’s dry sense of humor and sarcastic wit. “She just understood the value of women in this profession and the camaraderie we can have.”

In addition to her son, Ms. Anderson is survived by her daughter, Holly, of Squirrel Hill, and three grandchildren. The family will hold a memorial service at a later date and asks that contributions in Ms. Anderson’s memory be sent to Animal Friends.

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