The wife of the former St. Paul mayor established her own career, focusing on young children.
Nancy Moore Latimer, a strong and effective advocate for early childhood education, prevention of child abuse and rural Minnesota development, died at her home in St. Paul Friday afternoon after a long illness.
She was 69.
Latimer was the wife of former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer and the mother of five children, but she established a career in her own right in the mid-1980s when she went to work as a program officer for the McKnight Foundation, where she worked for 20 years.
"She really was my mentor on early education," said economist Art Rolnick, director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and a leader of the Ready 4 K initiative, which is pushing for more investment in early childhood education. "She's done an awful lot of good things for this state."
Latimer also helped develop the Alternative Response programs, now in place in all 87 Minnesota counties. It's for children in families at risk for child abuse but who don't meet the criteria for actually opening an abuse protection case, said Carol Brede, a former McKnight colleague.
"She was the perfect combination of heart and head," Brede said. "She was very quiet but had a wicked sense of humor. She was a wonderful colleague, always constructive, but never hesitant to point out when someone could do something more effectively."
Twenty years ago Latimer helped start six small regional foundations in rural areas that lacked philanthropic resources.
"She really provided the hand-holding we needed to get going. She was a compassionate, gentle, wise coach," said Kathy Gaalswyk, president of the Initiative Foundation, based in Little Falls. The foundations have helped create about 33,000 jobs in outstate Minnesota, Gaalswyk added.
Last year Latimer received a national award in philanthropic circles, the Robert W. Scrivner Award for Creative Grantmaking.
She developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, more than two years ago. Berde said that despite the paralyzing effects of the disease, Latimer remained as busy as possible and went out almost every day until a few weeks ago.
Born Nancy Moore in Oneonta, N.Y., she was the second of six children in a working-class family. Her father was a carpenter.
"She always had a quiet confidence, and she could tie her shoes before I could," said her older brother, Jim Moore. A younger brother, Sherman, said she was "always very industrious and wanted to get ahead. She did it on her own."
She won a New York State regents scholarship to Cornell University, where she got a degree in social science. She later earned a master's degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute.
She married George Latimer in 1959, and they moved to Minnesota in 1963. He established a law practice and got into politics while she took care of the children. George Latimer was one of the city's most popular and longest-serving mayors, holding the office from 1977 to 1989.
"Everybody always understood that she was the heart of our family," George Latimer said Friday. "She had an extraordinary mix of determination and gentleness, and everybody around her was dependent on her. There was an integrity in her life that you rarely find."
In addition to her husband, she is survived by children Faith Latimer, George Latimer Jr., Philip Latimer, Kate Courtney and Thomas Latimer; eight grandchildren, and four brothers.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Monday at the Church of the Assumption, 51 W. 7th St., St. Paul.