Nancy Van Pelt, 79, Family Life Author, Passes to her Rest
Author reached wide audience via literature evangelists; held seminars worldwide
In the early 1970s, Nancy Van Pelt, then the wife of a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, joined her husband, Harry, on a new adventure, moving to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he served in health ministries for the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Recognizing a lack of Christ centered family life educational tools, Nancy quickly developed a series of workshops and books on marriage, parenting and dating. From that grew an individual ministry that spanned the globe and touched thousands of lives over the course of more than 40 years.
Van Pelt passed to her rest on November 26, 2013, in Clovis, California, following massive pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the lungs. She was 79 years old.
She “lived her life with excellence, no matter what she did, as a quilter, author or a philanthropist,” daughter Carlene Will of Spokane, Wash., told Adventist Review in a telephone interview. Will said that once the family had decided to forego Christmas presents for those over 18 in favor of pooling funds for charitable donations, the ensuing years saw the Van Pelt family raise “over $70,000 for mission projects around the world,” ranging from a sound system for the Adventist seminary in Russia to goats for poor farmers.
To the wider world, however, Van Pelt was known for her many books, more than 43 written over her lifetime, including “The Compleat Marriage,” “To Have and to Hold,” “Train Up a Child,” “Highly Effective Marriage” and the very popular “Smart Love.” Adventist literature evangelists, also known as colporteurs, sold many of her books, which thus ended up in non-Adventist homes. The titles were translated into dozens of languages for overseas sales, Will noted.
According to Van Pelt’s ministry website, she “taught over 3,000 seminars” on family life across the U.S., and also “delivered her message about effective family living in 70 countries,” including Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Singapore, the Caribbean, India, Russia, Ukraine and the Netherlands.
“In her writings and seminars, she provided guidance and assistance to families not only in the United States but in countries like the former Soviet Union. We are so grateful that the God she so believed in will soon return to take His children home and thus create the ‘Compleat Family’ in heaven,” said Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, who headed the church’s work in the former Soviet Union when Van Pelt began presenting her seminars there.
Nancy and her sister Ginger were born and raised in Tacoma, Washington the daughters of Carl and Elsie Reel. Nancy and her daughter Carlene were graduates of Auburn Seventh-day Adventist Academy. Carl and Elsie were avid church supporters operating Reel Machinery, a successful heavy machinery business servicing the growing shipping industry on the Tacoma tide flats.
The Reels often had Sabbath lunch guests from the nearby Fort Lewis U.S. Army base, and Harry Van Pelt, then an Army medic, was one of those guests. The couple married in 1955 and raised three children. Harry, now retired from the Adventist ministry, daughter Carlene Will and sons Rodney and Mark, sister Ginger Snarr, along with 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild survive.
Will said her mother had intended her books to simply be companions for the parenting seminars she’d begun teaching in Calgary, and was surprised at their great success. As an unknown author, she had no idea how to get her books published, her daughter said.
“I think she was quite shocked when the Review and Herald Publishing Association accepted her manuscript,” Will recalled. Unlike other books on family life that focused on one aspect of marriage or parenting such as communication or discipline, Will said Van Pelt’s titles “were comprehensive, practical and to the point."
A memorial service was held at the Clovis Seventh-day Adventist Church on the afternoon of November 30.
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