Nancy F. Grassian

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Remembering Dr. Nancy Friedman Grassian

Obituary

Eulogy

 

Boston Globe Obituary

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Dr. Nancy Friedman Grassian, 52, activist


By Laura Levis, Globe Correspondent, 2/29/2004


Dr. Nancy Friedman Grassian of Newton, a community activist and the former director of psychology at Tufts Medical Center, died Friday of a rare form of cancer at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She was 52.


"Her endurance and perseverance was inspirational to the entire community," said longtime friend, Roderick MacLeish Jr. of Newton. "She was able to mix everything -- a successful career and a great love of family."


A longtime resident of Newton, Dr. Friedman graduated from George Washington University before earning a doctorate in clinical psychology from Case Western Reserve. After her internship at Beth Israel, she was appointed Director of Psychology at Tufts Medical Center where she remained for several years.


Described by friends and family as a woman with great passion and determination, Dr. Friedman was diagnosed in the early 1990s with leiomyosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that can be fatal within months of diagnosis.


Believed by her doctors to be one of the longest survivors of the disease, Dr. Friedman endured more than a dozen surgeries, multiple rounds of radiation, and chemotherapy in 12 years. Last year she was honored at the first conference of the Sarcoma Association.


A dedicated supporter of those who suffered from chronic disease, Dr. Friedman was active in the Wellness Community of Greater Boston, where her three children worked as teen volunteers.


She maintained an active clinical practice for many years and continued private therapy sessions with patients through her illness.


Extremely active in local civic associations, Dr. Friedman served as cochairman of the Newton Safety Committee, was campaign chairman in several local elections, participated in numerous school organizations and served as president and a member of the Board of Directors of the Chestnut Hill Association.


"Newton politics can be very divisive, but Nancy could walk into the room and put everyone at ease, especially people who wouldn't normally talk to each other," MacLeish said.

Newton Mayor David Cohen agreed.


"She was such a loving person," Cohen said yesterday. "She was incredibly devoted to her family and the community."
Despite the time commitments of her professional practice and her community involvement, the focus of Dr. Friedman's life was her three children and her husband.


"No one could ask for a more devoted mother or friend," a longtime friend, Margot Chamberlin of Newton, said in a statement. "Nancy's huge heart and great sense of humor, even in her final days, will be an enduring sense of inspiration to her vast community of friends, as well as her family."


She leaves her husband, Dr. Stuart Grassian; and her children, Alexandra, Danielle, and Benjamin, all of Chestnut Hill, as well as her parents, Mendel and Dorothy Friedman; her brother, John Friedman; and her sister, Roberta Weinstein; all of Baltimore.

 

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Eulogy by Dr. Stuart Grassian

NANCY (FRIEDMAN) GRASSIAN.
November 6, 1951 - February 27, 2004

.
Nancy walked into my life on July first, 1976. She was one of a very small group of
clinical psychology post docs accepted for further training by the Beth Israel Hospital
here in Boston.


I will never forget how she looked that day or what she wore. She was one of the
prettiest girls I had ever seen. But it was more than that. She had an absolutely radiant smile, so filled with warmth and sweetness. You could not help but fall in love with her. You just wanted to love her, to be sweet to her, to bask in the warmth of her smile. I don't think I ever felt that way before.


I will always be deeply grateful to her for that love - for her smile, for her happiness.
She received love with such openness, and she offered it so freely. She fell in love with people, with her friends, with her dogs, her cats, her ducks and turtles and birds and gerbils and guinea pigs. And they all fell in love with her. She loved her children so deeply, so passionately, so completely. They were a source of infinite joy to her.


Nancy was wonderful to her patients, a deeply compassionate and accepting therapist. I recall early in her career, when she was Director of Psychology at the Tufts Unit at Boston State Hospital, one of her patients - a young, artistically talented woman with a serious mental illness - drew a picture of Nancy. Pretty, gentle, infinitely kind. The patient titled it: “Dr. Friedman, relating.”


Yet with all her sweetness and gentleness, Nancy was also a fighter. When she
needed to be, she could be absolutely tenacious and determined. She got her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology just three years after completing her bachelor’s degree. - a fairly unparalleled feat. She involved herself in community issues and for a while was head of the Chestnut Hill Association. She served at Boston State Hospital during a period of intense legal pressure and uncertainty, and even wrote and spoke about the experience in psychiatric conferences. She coauthored research challenging the psychiatric effects of harsh conditions of imprisonment.


And she survived a very deadly cancer for 12 years. That, too, is a feat which in truth
is almost unheard of. She battled so hard. I have literally lost count of the
hospitalizations - certainly more than 30 - so many major surgeries, radiation,
chemotherapy, narrow escapes from death. She came close to death so many times, and each time she beat it back. With each struggle, the disease took a little more of her - more of her body, more of her strength, more of her spirit. Yet she never gave up, never lost the will to fight. Even just one week before her final hospitalization, she told me that she was going to fool them all and live - just get herself strong enough again to try yet another new chemotherapy.


But this time she just had nothing left to fight with. Her body had become so frail and
exhausted, and too wounded and scarred by all the battles she had fought so bravely
over the years.


I was so proud this past week of our three children - Alexandra, Danielle, and Benjamin. In her hour of greatest need, they rose to help her, to comfort and soothe her, even to hold her down when, in her confusion, she attempted to pull off her oxygen mask. They held her with all their strength and sometimes she would stop fighting and just put her arms around them and hug them close to her and let them comfort her. They were so loving, so strong. She lives on in them.

 

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Email: info@mothersday2005.org

Toll-free Hotline: 1-866-309-3952

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to: Rob Ain, Alexander Ameen, Amber Ameen, Mary Ameen, Aaron Beller, Bruce Block and BHSS'63 CAP, Jon Dreyer, Janie Fischbach, Rick Goldberg, Fred Goldrich, Stuart Grassian, Ed Levine, Susan Rogers, David Schreiber, The Sound Professionals, Inc., Karen Whittlesey, and everyone who is providing support and encouragement for this project.

 
     
 

 

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