Joan Nigro was at home wherever she was: sitting on the Omaha Housing Authority board, doing volunteer work, selling homes as a Realtor, creating memorable desserts, campaigning for political candidates, rooting from the stands for the Cornhuskers.
“She was so vibrant and so active that people thought she was younger than she was. And she loved doing things,” said her son, Joe Nigro of Lincoln.
Joan Metzbower Nigro, 78, died Sunday of breast cancer at her residence at Fountain View Active Retirement Community, her son said.
Her memorial service will begin at 11 a.m. Oct. 5 at First United Methodist Church, 7020 Cass St., with a luncheon afterward.
She worked on all campaigns of the honorary pallbearers she chose. Their names are a who's who of Nebraska and Omaha Democrats: Ben Nelson, Mike Fahey, Mike Boyle, Anne Boyle and Frank Brown.
Nelson said of her: “Joan was an absolutely wonderful person who was a close friend and one of my earliest supporters when I was deciding to run for governor and most people had never heard of me.
“She was a true professional, and the recent rise in home prices would have put a big smile on her face after all the housing industry has been through. She definitely had an impact on her city and state.”
Joan Nigro began selling residential real estate in 1984 and in 2010 was named Realtor of the Year. At the time of the award, she was in Alaska — the 50th state she had visited.
“She was really proud of the fact that she had visited all 50 states,” her son said.
She always had great attendance at private open houses for other real estate agents, Joe Nigro said.
“She was a fabulous cook and she particularly loved to make desserts. She could get tons of other Realtors to show up because they loved her food,” he said.
Joan Nigro, a Baltimore native, also did service work.
Then-Gov. Nelson appointed her to the Nebraska Real Estate Commission, where she served from 1996 to 2002. Then Fahey appointed her to the OHA board. She resigned the post in late 2011 due to her health.
“She was very passionate about providing housing to low-income people. My mom really took it to heart and worked hard,” her son said.
She volunteered for the Nebraska Division of the American Cancer Society and was its 1977 Volunteer of the Year. She also worked for United Way, the United Methodist Church and the Greater Omaha Association for Retarded Citizens.
“I think she was passionate about standing up for what she believed in,” her son said. That's why she joined First United Methodist Church in Omaha, he said, because it was inclusive of gays.
Besides Joan Nigro's son, other survivors include daughters Laurie Duncan of Dallas and Amy Nigro of Cincinnati, eight grandchildren and five of her nine siblings.
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