Nancy Delin made families and marriages stronger

  • Article by: BEN COHEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 20, 2007 - 10:56 PM

The pioneer in early childhood family education who died of cancer at 64 was called "a legend" in her field.

Nancy Delin, a Minnesota pioneer in the field of early childhood family education, was a woman of many talents.

The educator and gifted soprano died Aug. 18 in her Waconia home after a five-year struggle with cancer. She was 64.

She launched pilot programs in early childhood family education in the school districts of Scott and Carver counties starting in 1978, moving to the Edina School District in 1990, where she led a staff of 60. Delin and her staff taught children and their parents skills to help them succeed in school and at home.

"She was a legend in the field, a real pioneer," said Doug Johnson, director of Edina schools' community education services and community relations.

Over her career, Delin gave 500 presentations about early childhood education in five Midwestern states, said her daughter Heather Haas, of Roseville, a former Minneapolis teacher.

Delin also sang with the Minnesota Chorale for several years around 1970. She sometimes would close workshops and her speeches with a song.

Haas said her mother "saved families, saved marriages," and helped make many more stronger.

"She would tell parents to take time for themselves," Haas said. "And she counseled parents to come up with clear expectations on how to run their home."

After graduating from Bethel College (now University) in Arden Hills in 1964, she taught English at Minneapolis' Jordan Junior High School from 1966 to 1968.

After starting a family, she began her career in early childhood education in 1978.

Edina parent Bethany Brand remembers how helpful Delin was to her family.

"She taught that you should listen to your children" and not be too hard on yourselves as parents, said Brand, adding that Delin advocated that people should "keep a balance in parenting."

In 1993, Delin received the Ruth Hathaway Jewson Distinguished Service to Families Award from the Minnesota Council on Family Relations, and in 2001, she was the Minnesota Community Educator of the Year for communities with populations above 20,000.

She earned an MBA from St. Paul's University of St. Thomas in 1996. After retiring from the Edina School District in 2004, she served as a consultant to businesses.

She was active in the churches she attended, singing in their choirs and teaching Sunday school and Bible classes.

In addition to her daughter Heather, she is survived by her husband, Norman, of Waconia; another daughter, Jennie Tainter, of Burnsville; four brothers, Ron Robertson and Tom Robertson, of McNaughton, Wis., Paul Robertson, of West Bend Wis., and Steven Robertson, of Cedarburg, Wis., and six grandchildren.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 800 Waconia Pkwy. N., Waconia, Minn. Visitation will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the church.

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