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Nancy Freeman Rainey

SPARTANBURG, SC-- Nancy Freeman Rainey, of Spartanburg, passed away on Friday, December 22, 2017, at Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home.

Grace and perseverance were hallmarks of Nancy's life. She dreamed big dreams, gave generously, loved unequivocally, and charmed wholeheartedly. Nancy will forever be remembered and beloved for her generous encouragement, her boundless determination, and her spirited leadership

A native of Anderson, SC, Nancy was the daughter of the late Caroline (Callie) Stringer Rainey and John Faulkner Rainey, M.D. Nancy served as a trustee of The Stringer Foundation and the Callie and John Rainey Foundation. She attributed her commitment to family, friends, and community to the guidance she received from her parents.

Nancy earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Randolph Macon Woman's College in 1964. While in college, she served as a Vice President of the Student Council. After graduation, she worked in Atlanta as a research assistant at the First Research Center, an affiliate of Piedmont Hospital.

In 1965, Nancy moved to Spartanburg and married Stanley Witherell Converse, Jr. The couple had a son, Stanley Witherell Converse III, whom Nancy cherished as her greatest accomplishment. One of her first endeavors as a new member of her husband's community was to create a church newsletter for the First Presbyterian Church. For six years, Nancy edited the newsletter and organized all the congregation's special receptions. She also served as a circle leader, a Bible School teacher, and Chair of the Christian Community Action committee.

Blessed with intelligence, humor, and a generous spirit, Nancy dedicated her life to community service and historic preservation. Her volunteer work benefitted our community beyond measure, and each cause she rallied received her unbridled passion. In 1992 and 1993, two Spartanburg traditions were founded by Nancy: Festifall, a living history festival presenting life in the colonial Upstate at Walnut Grove Plantation, and A Dickens of a Christmas, a Victorian festival in downtown Spartanburg showcasing the community's talented performers. Both events still delight children and their families today.

Above all, Nancy was a fearless fundraiser. After helping to form the Arts Partnership in Spartanburg County, which put all of the county's arts organizations under one umbrella, Nancy was one of the key leaders who worked to raise $35 million to make the dream of the Chapman Cultural Center a reality. She chaired a $2 million capital campaign to relocate St. Luke's Free Medical Clinic to a historic building in downtown Spartanburg. She organized a capital campaign for construction of the pavilion at Walnut Grove Plantation, and chaired two Beaux Arts Balls for the Friends of the Arts. She also chaired a fundraiser in Spartanburg for Columbia's Ronald McDonald House.

One of the joys of Nancy's childhood was riding her horse, Bluebell, and Nancy knew firsthand of the strong bond formed between horse and rider. She was honored to co-chair the campaign to build a covered arena for HALTER (Healing and Learning Through Equine Relationships), located at their therapeutic riding center on the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind campus.

As the Clifton Manufacturing Company's #2 Mill was dismantled, Nancy purchased thousands of the mill's bricks, its heart pine beams, and the decorative fretwork and door frame that all the mill workers walked through each day. It was only fitting that these historic artifacts from Dexter Edgar Converse's mill were preserved and used to build the central structure for the Rainey Amphitheater at Converse College. Nancy's interest in Clifton Mill and Clifton Beach (the only Spartanburg County park located on a riverfront) led to her support of a four-year project with Upstate Forever, "Reconnecting People to Rivers." One of the outcomes of this project is the distribution of waterproof maps, free to the public, that locate the waterways and river accesses throughout South Carolina.

Nancy's vision for a better Spartanburg and a better South Carolina made her a natural leader. She served on the Junior League of Spartanburg Board (President, 1981-1982); the Friends of the Arts Board (President, 1991-1992); the Presidents' Council (Chairman) of the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg (1993); the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg Board of Trustees (1993-1994); the Spartanburg County Historical Association Board (President, 1993-1995); the Charles Lea Center Foundation for Handicapped Children and Adults Board (1986-2002, Chairman, 1993-2002); the Spartanburg Humane Society Board (2003-2005); and the St. Luke's Free Medical Clinic Board (four terms). In addition, she served at the state level with the Friends of the State Museum (1983-1985), the South Carolina State Museum Foundation (1998-2000), and the Friends of Brookgreen Gardens (1998-2000). She received commendations from both the City and County Councils for her achievements.

In recognition of her commitment to Spartanburg and her achievements on its behalf, Nancy received many honors. Among them were The David Reid Award for outstanding contributions to the arts from the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg (1996); Achievement for Volunteerism Award from Spartanburg Community College (1998); The Association of Fund Raising Professionals Philanthropist of the Year Award (2001); The Kiwanis Club of Spartanburg Citizen of the Year (2003); The Junior League of Spartanburg Sustainer of the Year Award (2005); The Mary Mildred Sullivan Award from Converse College (2007); Caring Hearts Award from St. Luke's Free Medical Clinic (2007); Addie B. McWhirter Society Award (2010); and The Elaine T. Freeman Award from the Charles Lea Center (2013). In 2017, the Nancy Rainey HALTER Humanitarian Award was established to recognize those who have worked endlessly and given generously to help advance the mission and goals of HALTER.

Nancy enjoyed projects and activities that she felt strengthened her community and state, while benefitting the citizens of Spartanburg and South Carolina. While civic work was her lifelong passion, Nancy found her greatest joy in the wonderful people she met who quickly became her friends. She was an avid bridge player, a championship tennis player, and a gardener extraordinaire. Nancy transformed the grounds of her home into a garden oasis, which was featured in newspaper articles and opened to garden club tours.

Nancy is survived by her beloved son, Stanley Witherell Converse III and his wife, Catherine, and four grandchildren, Clare Rainey, Chloe McCall, Caitlin Reid and Andrew Stringer Converse of Kalispell, Montana; a brother, Robert McElwee Rainey and his wife, Louise, Anderson, SC; and a sister, Mary Rainey Belser and her husband, Clinch, Columbia, SC; a sister-in-law, Anne Edins Rainey, and several beloved cousins, nieces, and nephews. She is also survived by her faithful and loving friend of over 50 years, Mrs. Dreamer Clemons. She was predeceased by a brother, John Stringer Rainey.

The family wishes to express their appreciation to Veronica Bowe, Sheila Briston, Fred Clemons, Geraldine Cook, Barbara Fleming, Makeitha Mallory, and Wendi Stevens for the loving care they gave Nancy in the last days of her life.

A memorial service will be conducted at 3:00 PM Thursday, January 4, 2018, at First Presbyterian Church, 393 E. Main St., Spartanburg, SC 29302, by The Rev. Dr. Tom Evans and The Rev. Joanne R. Hull. The family looks forward to greeting friends after the service at The Piedmont Club. Interment will be private in the Rainey plot in Anderson, SC.

The family requests that flowers be omitted. Memorials may be made to HALTER, PO Box 1403, Spartanburg, SC 29304.
An online guest register is available at
Floyd's North Church Street Chapel

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