Nansemonds lose ‘inspiration’

The Nansemond Indians lost an “inspiration” when Sandy McCready...

Nansemonds lose inspiration

The Nansemond Indians lost an “inspiration” when Sandy McCready, a long-time member and volunteer for the tribe, died April 6 after a long battle with diabetes.

She was 60.

“I would say her legacy is that she never gave up,” Nansemond Indian Chief Earl Bass said. “This tribe was her life … and she was always here, working tirelessly and doing anything she could do to help the tribe.”

For years, Sandy, wearing her tribal regalia, proudly danced in the Nansemond’s annual powwow, celebrating her lineage that goes back 14 generations to a Nansemond woman named Elizabeth and Englishman John Bass, according to Bass.

For many years, their families used to pack up and travel to other tribes’ powwows across Virginia and North Carolina, recalled Bass.

“Everywhere we went to a powwow, she danced,” said Bass. “I know the last few years have been a struggle for her.

“I think giving up dancing is one of the hardest things she had to do over the last five or six years.”

Both McCready and her mother, Joyce Story, were active for decades with the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association, Bass recalled. In the early days, they would telephone everyone monthly to remind folks about the tribe’s upcoming meeting and ask them to bring a dish for the potluck.

“Sandy and her mom both went above and beyond keeping all of us informed about meetings,” Bass said. “She always did everything she could to help the tribe.”

Over the years, she has many roles as a member of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association: secretary, tribal council member, native dancer and manager of the Nansemond Indian Tribe’s former museum and gift shop. She was also a founding member on the Nansemond’s Mattanock Town project committee, the tribe’s committee that worked with city to acquire city-owned land that once belonged to the tribe to build a replica of a Nansemond village.

“She loved being part of the Nansemond tribe and participating in the powwows,” said Sandy’s husband, Chuck McCready. “They meant so much to her and it made her happy.”

Sandy and her husband grew up down the street from one another in Portsmouth.

“We always used to play around the neighborhood together as kids … and one day, we just run off and eloped down there in Elizabeth City (N.C.),” McCready said. “We didn’t really have a plan and we didn’t exactly know how to tell our parents.”

So for the first week of their marriage, Sandy and Chuck, then 25 and 18 respectively, continued to live in their parents’ homes.

“After about a week, she finally told her mother,” McCready chuckled. “I sure don’t regret it. We had our ups and downs … but we loved it out here.”

The couple lived in Portsmouth for years, until they and McCready’s uncle and his wife went in together to buy a farm on Butler Road in southwestern Suffolk about 10 years ago. Both couples built homes on the property, and Sandy was finally able to have her beloved horses, McCready said.

For years, Sandy drove school buses, first in Portsmouth and then in Suffolk, according to McCready. She finally left Suffolk on disability six years ago, after having complications from heart surgery, he said.

“All the kids loved her,” he said. “They didn’t want to see her go.”

Bob and Sue Cantrell, honorary Nansemond tribe members and McCready’s close friends, remembered Sandy as a kind, goodhearted person.

“She would do anything for anybody,” Sue Cantrell said. “I can’t tell you how many times she invited people who were down on their luck to move in with them until they got back on their feet.”

For Sue, Sandy’s most selfless act happened shortly after McCready’s mother, Joyce, had died. Despite her years as an auxiliary member of the tribe, Sue never had bought or made her own tribal regalia.

She was happily surprised when Sandy, at a monthly Nansemond meeting, formally presented her with the treasured blue-and-white shawl that had been part of her mother’s dancing regalia.

“I can’t tell you how much that means to me now,” Cantrell said. “The whole tribe loved her.”

A memorial service for McCready will be held at 11 a.m. April 9 at Living Waters Christian Fellowship, 2700 Gum Road, Chesapeake. The Rev. Nelson F. Fields Jr. will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to Nansemond Indian Tribe Association (NITA), 1001 Pembroke Lane, Suffolk, VA 23432, or to Living Waters Christian Fellowship, 2700 Gum Road, Chesapeake, VA 23321, Building Fund.

Article taken from The Suffolk News-Herald –
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