A memorial service is being held Friday, May 20 at Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit for longtime Chatham resident Lee Nordholm, who passed away on April 14 after a short illness.
Known for her tireless volunteering in many aspects of Chatham, Nordholm’s passion was the theatre. “The first thing she did when she moved to Chatham [in 1966] was to see if there was a theatre,” said Christina Nordholm, Lee’s daughter, who said Nordholm moved to Chatham from Ohio in 1966.
Nordholm got involved with the Chatham Community Players right away, helping direct and produce children’s theatre productions.She was given the Dawler award for her longtime service to the Players.
As a tribute to her, the Chatham Community Players will rename their annual scholarship after her, calling it the Lee Nordholm Scholarship. It will be awarded to a Chatham High graduate each year.
“We thought this would be the best way to honor her,” says Chris Furlong, executive producer and past president of the Chatham Community Players.
Since Nordholm's death, Furlong said the Players have received numerous messages through social media websites such as Facebook mourning her loss. "She touched people in different ways," Furlong said.
Nordholm was the editor of the Backstage Newsletter for decades. She served as a trustee and vice president for the organization and won the Players’ Shipler Award twice and the Dawley Award once for her many outstanding contributions.
Over the years, Nordholm was an active volunteer in all aspects of the community theatre from working on make-up and wig duty to a lot of set painting. “She was always behind the scenes,” said Christina, but “painting was her big forte.”
Nordholm painted hundreds of landscape paintings over the years, working primarily out of a studio at her home on Hillside Avenue. Her love of international travel perhaps inspired her paintings even further as she voyaged all over the world, often visiting her daughter in such exotic spots as Venezuela and South Africa.
For many years Nordholm was a member the Chatham Historic Preservation Committee, founded in 1989. “She was very interested in preserving Main Street and keeping the old-world charm of Chatham,” says Mindy Pitonyak, who is a current member of Committee. “She had a lot of energy and gave a lot of time to the community,” Pitonyak adds.
Following the Memorial Service Friday, a Chatham Borough Counselor Proclamation plaque will be given to the family to honor Lee’s service to Chatham, according to Leonard Resto, the Council Liaison to the Historic Preservation Commission. The proclamation was approved by the Borough Council at their April 25 meeting.
Nordholm also worked fulltime as parish administrator for Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit for over 25 years and raised her two children, Greg and Christina. The family was also very active in sailing and kept a boat at the Raritan Yacht Club, participating in weekly racing.
The family also spent many summers visiting Nordholm’s parents on their family farm in Virginia, where she grew up. At just 16 years of age, Nordholm won a Pepsi Cola scholarship and attended George Washington University, where she graduated with a degree in international economics.
Nordholm, an ardent Democrat, was active with the League of Women Voters and was involved in her church’s Interweave Program, a community learning center for “wholistic” learning. “She was active in many activities and attended the weekly forums up until the end,” says George Hayman, parish administrator of the Calvary Episcopal Church. He also said there is a moving tribute in the program for Friday’s Memorial, written by Reverend William Strain, who hired Nordholm and served as the rector from 1968-1993.
Nordholm also made donations to many organizations, including the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which she helped to start.
“She was the last of a certain kind of grande dame who pushed for things like scholarships long before they became the norm,” says Martine Bisagni, a longtime family friend. “She was particularly interested in helping women.”