Nedra grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Virginia, and College Park Maryland. Her father was an Assistant Director of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover. So, Nedra had some interesting Washington adventures as a child and young adult.
She attended high school in Maryland. From her yearbook: Nedra Tracy, a serious-minded member of our class, but with a ready willingness for a good time, Ned's sincere attitude has won her many friends. She was in the Latin Club, Dramatics Club, Y-Teens, Science Club, was a Concord Exchange Student, and a member of the yearbook staff.
Her sense of fun and adventure lasted through her life. Her sincere attitude continued to make her many friends.
Nedra attended the University of Maryland and was a member of Alpha Chi Omega. She and James Samuel Van Ness met at the University. She was a townie, and he was a work study student from Middletown, Maryland by way of Houston, Texas. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Home Economics with a focus on textiles and fashion. They were married on June 18th, 1955, and moved to the Boston area where he was stationed with the Air Force. There she took a job as a receptionist at the University of Harvard Student Health Center.
After the birth of their daughter Lynn in 1959, they moved to Berwyn Heights, Maryland. Their son Paul was born in 1962. James taught High School History and attended graduate programs in American History, receiving his master’s and PhD from UMd. He and a friend operated a canoe camp for boys in Maine during the summer. Nedra was a visitor to the base camp at the beginning and end of the season many years and was known to impress the campers with her ability to handle the two-man saw.
Nedra was an active homemaker at a time when many women often looked down at anyone content to be a stay-at-home Mom. She made our home a welcoming place for the neighborhood kids throughout our childhood. She developed an interest in international cuisine and was an expert cook and seamstress. In 1970 the family moved to Heidelberg, Germany while James was with the University's international branch. Lynn was 9 and Paul was 7. Nedra's willingness to accept the adventure opened us all up to great experiences. The family traveled about in a VW Camper from country to country during vacations. Nedra and James taught by example and we learned that if you treat people well, with kindness and respect and show a genuine interest in their lives, you will be given many more opportunities to experience greater adventures.
The family moved to Canton, New York in the mid-70s when James was with St. Lawrence University. Nedra was an active participant in the University social scene, hosting many university functions. She also taught a series of basic cooking classes one year as part of the University's non-credit courses (along the lines of “how to survive once you don't live at home and Mom won't be cooking for you anymore) and worked with the head of the dining hall to put together a cooking conference with Chef Annmarie Huste which featured a combination of go to basics and elevated cooking techniques.
Next was Riverton, Wyoming, and Central Wyoming College. Nedra started working at the Riverton Ranger and developed an interest in weaving. She attended courses at the College and received the class trophy for her work. The last move was to Temple, Texas in the early 80s for James's work at Temple College. Nedra worked at the Temple Telegram and then at Temple College until her retirement in 2000. She served on the Christ Church Altar Guild for a number of years.
Nedra picked up her interest in weaving again after her retirement and created custom fabrics, rugs and wall hangings for family and friends. She was also an active member of P.E.O. International's local Chapter EW.
While at the TJC Nedra was interviewed by a student for a class assignment. The assignment was to interview someone with a job that interested you. She was asked what she liked most about her job. Her response: “Because everything I ever learned in my life is useful here.”