Schaaf does it all, with panache

BEAUFORT – Speaking about his wife of 45 years, Jack Schaaf said: “She doesn’t let me get old.” That is exactly the reaction a lot of people have once they experience the dynamism of Nancy Schaaf.

Moving to Beaufort in 1985 after a career as a military officer’s wife and a mother of four, Schaaf became a successful small business operator and a founding member of “Main Street USA.” Then the Charleston native went to work for the county, brought “Keep America Beautiful” to Beaufort and organized the first Adopt-A-Highway program, which was eventually implemented statewide. But all her professional accomplishments pale in comparison to her work at her parish.

“Nancy is multitalented and is always willing to do anything for anybody,” said Betsey R. Robinson, a staffer at St. Peter Church. “She’s a very good Catholic and a classy lady.”

Known as the local flower guru because of her creative designs for church functions, Schaaf is the kind of active parishioner who makes a pastor smile as he gives thanks to God, the kind that eases the burden on those who do the work at a busy parish. And she does it all with panache.

“She’s a clever, funny lady. We do big projects together and whatever we do, she makes it fun and makes it turn out right; she leaves everybody happy,” said Rita R. Brown, who has volunteered with Schaaf for the past seven years at St. Peter.

Last year, in an effort to raise money for the scholarship fund of St. Peter’s School, Schaaf and Angela Barnes, neither of whom have any children in the K-8 school, undertook the organization and operation of a tour of homes called “Homes For the Holiday.” Selected houses in Beaufort were decorated by professionals and displayed during a grand winter outing. According to Jack Schaaf, such a fund-raiser had never been tried before in Beaufort and turned out to be “a phenomenal success,” bringing in a net profit of $35,000 for the school. Typically, her husband said, she is today deeply involved in the project’s second season. His wife’s enterprise and commitment no longer astonish the parishioners of St. Peter.

“Nancy always seems to come up with something creative,” Robinson said.

And the grandmother of a dozen puts in the hours and the effort to make her creations work. Schaaf thinks it’s the least she can do for a faith that has nurtured her all her life.

“I enjoy it and want to do it. I feel like I ought to give back to the church,” she said.

She also gives back by working as an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and chair of the parish hospitality committee. In recognition, the parish Ladies Guild elected Schaaf as their Woman of the Year for 2003.