Passing of Longtime Docent Nannie Thompson
Written by Jim Auchmutey, The Wren’s Nest Board Member
The Wren’s Nest has employed scores of tour guides in its 107 years as a house museum, but few if any were as beloved as Nannie Thompson, who died on March 19 at the age of 88.
“Miss Nannie,” as she was known, was an Alabama native who for many years ran a restaurant with her husband, Fred E. Thompson, in southwest Atlanta: Fred’s Fine Foods. “She’d feed strangers off the street if they didn’t have any other way of getting a meal,” recalls her granddaughter, Teresa WellmakerGibbs. “She was that kind of person.”
Miss Nannie started at the Wren’s Nest as a housekeeper in the late 1990s. With her outgoing personality and her experience in customer service, she quickly became a docent. “She was so funny,” says longtime office manager Jeri McWilliams. She was especially popular with schoolchildren and seniors visiting the house.
There’s a file on Miss Nannie in the Wren’s Nest archives that’s full of fan mail and thank you letters. After a school tour in 2007, Asher and Annette wrote: “We think you are a really good tour guide and have a really good job.” Will added:”I still don’t get how tour guides memorize all that stuff. It must be hard work!” And Mallory chimed in: “It is amazing what Joel Chandler Harris did and how you were his housekeeper!” (Sorry, Mallory, Miss Nannie didn’t go back that far.)
And then there was a note from Jane, an adult visitor, who showed her gratitude by sending Miss Nannie laminated recipe cards for baked squash, broccoli casserole and corn pudding.
“She was thought of as a Wren’s Nest treasure,” says former program director Kalin Thomas, who recalls a day when Miss Nannie was cleaning the house and feeling blue thinking about her husband, who had passed away. She grew weary and decided to take a nap in Joel Chandler Harris’s bed. “She said she felt his presence, and it made her feel better.”
Which is exactly how Miss Nannie affected people at the Wren Nest; she made them feel better for having met her.
Rest in peace, Nannie Thompson, mother of three, grandmother of eight, great grandmother of 12 — and tour guide extraordinaire.