Image of Nancy McDonald.
UU Church Today, Society & Culture, Practice & Voice, BeyondBelief

Celebrating the Life of Nancy McDonald

Nancy Ann (Nellor) McDonald, a community leader and civil rights advocate, died Tuesday,
October 24, 2023, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at age 87.

Nancy was born in Beemer, Nebraska on June 4, 1936 to Floyd and Marguerite Nellor. She is
survived by her husband Joe McDonald, 90; brother Howard Nellor, 85; sister Sharlene
Clatanoff, 83; her four children, JoElyn Newcomb, Paul McDonald, Jason McDonald, and Morva
McDonald; her eight grandchildren, Amelia, Joseph, Hannah, Francesca, Floyd, Ava, Simon, and
Sadie along with the Jones family: Zack and Chantal and their two children, Jason and Sarah.

A graduate of the University of Nebraska, Nancy began her career as a medical technologist.
She and Joseph McDonald were married in 1957 in Omaha. They lived in San Bernardino, CA;
Yalova, Turkey; San Antonio, TX; and Tampa FL before settling in Tulsa, OK in 1966.

While her children were growing up in Tulsa, Nancy’s interests turned to education and youth
development. As a leader in desegregating schools in Tulsa, she helped recruit families to
Burroughs Elementary, which led to the voluntary integration program at Booker T. Washington
High School and Carver Middle School. In 1975, she began a career with Tulsa Public Schools
that lasted until 1990. She was invited to participate in the White House Symposium on
Education and Corporate Engagement, now known as “Partners in Education.” Nancy wrote the
guidelines for Partners in Education groups that were published as a book on involving
community volunteers in public schools. Later in life, Nancy’s volunteer efforts continued to
support Tulsa Public Schools, especially the schools in North Tulsa, including Monroe
Demonstration Academy.

Nancy’s dedicated service extended beyond the education sector. She served in community
organizations in the arts, child and teen welfare, HIV/AIDS, human rights, racial equality,
LGBTQ+ rights, and women’s empowerment. She was the first woman on the boards of Tulsa
Boys’ Home and the Thornton Family YMCA. She helped found Children’s Consortium; the Gay
and Lesbian Fund of Tulsa; Leadership Tulsa; Living Arts; Tulsa CARES; Tulsa Global Alliance;
and Tulsa Reaches OUT. She served on the Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma board for 16 years,
including five years as President, leading the Council through the tragedy of the Camp Scott
murders in 1977. When one of her daughters came out as a lesbian in 1987, Nancy founded the
Tulsa Chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), the first PFLAG chapter in
Oklahoma. She went on to serve the organization regionally and nationally, including as
National President from 1996 to 1998, during which time 200 chapters opened around the
country and the organization officially added transgender people to their mission. PFLAG was
the first national LGBTQ+ organization to be trans-inclusive. Nancy also testified to Congress to
defeat the Defense of Marriage Act and helped pass legislation to prevent discrimination and
protect LGBTQ+ students from bullying.

Nancy was the recipient of many awards for her social justice service, including the All Souls
Unitarian Centennial Award; the Pathfinder Award; the naming of the Nancy & Joe McDonald
Rainbow Library in the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, and inductee into the Tulsa Hall of

Nancy and Joe spent their retirement years traveling and visiting their large family around the
country. Nancy’s most cherished time was the time she spent baking cookies with her
grandchildren, in person and via zoom. At her request, those attending the reception after her
memorial service are invited to bring homemade cookies to share. (But please, she said, no
store-bought cookies!)

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Nancy’s honor to Partners in Education.

The celebration of Nancy’s life will be held at All Souls Unitarian Church (2952 S. Peoria Ave,
Tulsa) on Sunday, November 12 at 4pm. A reception – with homemade cookies – will follow.