Nan Schwab Pendergrast

Pendergrast—Nan Schwab Pendergrast, 98, on December 17, 2018, at her home in Atlanta, Ga. Nan was born on June 17, 1920, in Atlanta, the youngest of three children of Helen Kaiser and Robert W. Schwab. Growing up in the Druid Hills community, she attended Atlanta’s Washington Seminary before continuing her education at Vassar College. She worked in partnership with Britt Pendergrast, her husband of 76 years, striving to make the world better and raising their seven children. When they were young, she led them with their friends on hikes along the Chattahoochee River and climbed up Kennesaw and Stone Mountain. She and Britt were members of the Wider Quaker Fellowship and joined Atlanta Meeting in 1983 when she said that although they didn’t feel they were good enough to be members, since they weren’t getting much better, they might as well join.

She worked to advance civil rights, peace, justice, education, and care of the environment, serving on the boards of the Jeannette Rankin Foundation, American Friends Service Committee, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Vassar College Alumnae Association, the League of Women Voters, Friends School of Atlanta (which she had helped to found), and other nonprofit organizations. She was a member of the Southern Regional Council and a leader of Help Our Public Education (HOPE), which was instrumental in peacefully integrating Atlanta public schools in 1961. She led the local Vietnam antiwar movement and opened her home to national leaders when they campaigned for peace in Atlanta. She and Britt tutored students at Margaret Mitchell School and volunteered at Emmaus House in south Atlanta.

Her column “The Way It Is” for the Atlanta Constitution described humorously the joys, challenges, and adventures of raising children. Later in life, she wrote and published two books, Neighborhood Naturalist and For Love of the British Isles. She and Britt also edited and published News/Views, a compilation of progressive news stories distributed throughout the country.

She greatly appreciated and was an expert on wildflowers, giving talks on wildflowers to Atlanta area garden clubs and surrounding herself with flowers by working at Sears Garden Center, where she helped others to create and enhance their gardens.

Her love for singing was a tradition at her many family reunions. She was known for her candor, storytelling, and sense of humor. Courageous and always an optimist, she lived a joyful life, enriched by her lifelong belief that concerned citizens working together could affect the course of history. She continued bringing flowers from her garden for the meeting’s center table until a week before her death.

Nan is survived by her children, Jill MacGlaflin, John B. Pendergrast III (Fiona), Nan Marshall (Gene), Mark Pendergrast (Betty), Blair Vickery, Scott Pendergrast (Bailey), and Craig Pendergrast (Terri); 20 grandchildren; 27 (and counting) great-grandchildren; a brother-in-law, William Pendergrast, called Bill; two sisters-in-law, Helen Pendergrast and Elizabeth Pendergrast, called Libba; and many nieces and nephews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Maximum of 400 words or 2000 characters.

Comments on may be used in the Forum of the print magazine and may be edited for length and clarity.