Nancy Lee Boyce, teacher, artist, writer and Maryland thoroughbred enthusiast, dies

Nancy Lee Boyce, a teacher and artist whose whimsical drawings portrayed the Maryland horse racing scene, politics and social issues, died of a heart-related disease July 18 at her Hunt Valley home.

The former Glen Arm resident was 95.

Born and raised on Mill Farm in Brooklandville, she was the daughter of Columbus O’Donnell Lee Jr., an insurance executive and artist, and his wife, Mabel Forest Robison.

She was a 1941 graduate of the Bryn Mawr School and obtained a bachelor’s degree in art history from Smith College in Massachusetts.

She married Lambert Gittings Boyce, a Maryland horse breeder and trainer, and helped raise thoroughbreds on their farms in Brooklandville and Glen Arm.

Mrs. Boyce taught kindergarten, elementary and high school at the Bryn Mawr School and Harford Day School in Bel Air for more than 27 years. Her tenure at Harford Day included time as vice principal.

She was an active alumna of the Bryn Mawr School and Smith College. For many years she gathered, sorted and sold books donated to the Smith College Book Sale, which raised funds for student scholarships. She was a past chair of the event, which was held annually at the Towson Armory and later at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

Mrs. Boyce had a column, Hapless Hard Scramble, and later, Confidentially Speaking, published in Maryland Horse magazine, now known as Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.

“Through the lens of her beloved horse characters, she commented on the political and social issues of the day,” said her daughter, Harriet “Hallie” Boyce Walsh of Philadelphia.

Mrs. Boyce also covered steeplechase races in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania for the publication.

“Nancy was part of the team at the old Maryland Horse magazine staff that really established a national standard for excellence in equestrian journalism,” said Ross Peddicord, director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board. “Each month featured one of her cartoons, Bill The Stable Pony, with some sort of wry and humorous insight, as well as photographs taken by Skip Ball and Neena Ewing and writers such as Snowden Carter.”

“Her work captured a golden age of the Maryland Thoroughbred racing and breeding world that had incalculable worth as a public relations vehicle for the state's equine industry,” said Mr. Peddicord.

As a young woman Mrs. Boyce rode horses, and she remained an avid fan of the Maryland racing scene. She was a regular presence at the spring timber races in Harford and Baltimore counties. She attended races at Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, where she would watch her granddaughter, jockey Forest Boyce, compete.

“Nancy was just one of those unique people associated with horses who embrace what's best about Maryland's horse world,” said Mr. Peddicord. “She was kind, gracious, thoroughly knowledgeable but always still curious about horses and their relationships with people. Nancy was a mother and grandmother of excellent horsemen and women. She really embodied a sense of our culture that seems genuinely Maryland. “

She frequented the Timonium off-track betting establishment, where her family and friends helped her celebrate her 95th birthday earlier this year.

Friends recalled that Mrs. Boyce wore a green fedora hat affixed with numerous enameled pins that commemorated her schools, volunteer organizations and family mementos.

She studied art at the Schuler School of Art and at Zoll Studios under artists John Brandon Sills and Carol Ann Thompson. In addition to her pen and ink cartoons of horses, she worked in oils, often painting bucolic landscapes of places she traveled. Her painting subjects also included horses and dogs.

She exhibited her works at the Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania, and also helped run community art exhibits.

She painted the Maryland countryside — and defended it as a co-founder of the Long Green Valley Association, a land conservation group that worked to preserve the valley from development. She lived for many years at the Glen Meadow Farm at Glen Arm.

She was a member of the Hardy Garden Club, and cultivated roses and orchids.

“She enjoyed learning about different plant species on trips to local gardens, including her visits to her family’s former estate, Cylburn,” said her daughter.

Mrs. Boyce was a docent and trustee of Ladew Topiary Gardens. She also toured gardens in Provence, France and Sissinghurst, England. She spent time with her family in Rehoboth and Bethany beaches in Delaware and at the Outer Banks in North Carolina and Cape May, N.J.

Mrs. Boyce had attended the Sacred Heart Church in Mount Washington and was a Eucharistic minister at both St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Long Green and most recently at the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier. She was a Catholic Charities donor.

“She drew comfort and strength throughout her life from her tremendous faith,” said her daughter.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Catholic Community at St. Francis Xavier Church, 13717 Cuba Road in Cockeysville.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include three sons, C. O’Donnell L. Boyce of Raleigh, N.C., Lambert Gittings Boyce Jr. of Fallston and Timothy Robison Boyce of Dallas, Texas; another daughter, Elise Gillet Boyce of Baltimore; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Her husband of 44 years died in 1989.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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