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Nancy Black

Obituary for Nancy Black

September 6, 1952 - November 26, 2017
Austin, Texas | Age 65


Nancy Lee Hollen Black was born in El Paso, Texas, on September 6, 1952, to Dr. Theodore Thomas Hollen, Jr. and "Cheta" Weatherford Hollen. The youngest of four children, she spent her earliest years on a cotton farm in Pecos, Texas. Later, while her father pursued his Ph.D. at the University of Texas, she attended Lamar Junior High and McCallum High School in Austin. She graduated from Alpine High School in 1971, her father by then a professor at Sul Ross State University.

Nancy had a unique upbringing. Her mother's parents came to Marfa from Central Texas in the early twentieth century. Her father was from Yakima, Washington, by way of Los Angeles, California. She saw much of the country from the backseat of a car as they road-tripped to visit family over the years. She developed a strong sense of self and purpose at a young age. She was a keen observer of humanity and a critical thinker. While so many people walk through life staring at their own feet, she kept her head high. She watched. She collected data. She cared. She cried for strangers and animals and parts of the world she'd never see with her own two eyes.

Like her father before her, Nancy ended up at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority and played tennis. After she married Ricky Black of Marfa in 1975 and started a family, she finished her studies at Sul Ross State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. That degree allowed her to take a job with the state of Texas and, in 1983, Nancy, Ricky, and their two oldest children, Mercer and Damon, moved to Austin. It was there that their third child Brandon was born.

Nancy spent many years working her way up the corporate ladder, eventually landing a Managing Director position with a "big six" consulting firm. She once served as an expert witness to Congress and traveled internationally as a consultant. She was respected in her field, particularly by those who worked with her. One co-worker and friend recalls how Nancy taught her "that one need never apologize for being a woman." Nancy spent much of her life living and thriving in a man's world. Her success was her strength and her strength was her success. She conquered every challenge set before her, until the day she decided to walk away from it all and write.

The last eight years of her life, Nancy lived in a quiet cottage in the Texas Hill Country with the love of her life Thomas Reinarz. In that time, she wrote two novels and started several more. She enjoyed keeping up with current events and playing Scrabble. She was a bit of a shade-tree sommelier and it turned out she was also a heck of a cook, a fact that befuddled no one more than her children who were raised largely on Toaster Strudels and bean burritos. Recently, she'd taken up tennis again. She was just getting her serve back. She planned on living forever.

On November 26, 2017, Nancy suffered a massive brain aneurysm. She passed away in her hospital room three days later with her Tom, her children, and other members of her family nearby. She is preceded in death by her son Damon, who she loved and mourned with every thread of her being; her parents Tom and Cheta; her ex-husband and friend Ricky Black; and her best friends Emily Woodward and Georgeanna Sanchez. She leaves behind her beloved Tom Reinarz; daughter Mercer Black; son Brandon Black; honorary son Justin Lavalle; son-in-law Marc Declercq; daughter-in-law Rebecca Vargas; grandchildren who knew her as Yaya, Campbell Black-Declercq, Blaze Black, Gage Black, and Fox Lavalle; siblings Theodore Thomas Hollen III, William "Skipper" Hollen, and Patricia Moreland; nieces and nephews she thought the absolute world of; countless people she was proud to call friend; and a sixteen-year-old beagle named Pancho.

Nancy also leaves behind a legacy of perseverance. All who witnessed her bear the burden of Damon's loss can testify to her grace and dignity. She believed that happiness was a choice and she chose to be happy. It is no surprise she loved the following words from Leonard Cohen so much: "Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack, a crack in everything (there is a crack in everything), That's how the light gets in."

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