I walk with God in perfect holiness. I light the world, I light my mind and all the minds which God created one with me.


Nancy Only loved Humboldt County, loved her community, loved helping others, loved food and cooking, loved singing and music, loved her family and being a mom, loved writing, loved stitching and quilting, loved art, loved animals, loved people, and loved life. Nancy loved—and those fortunate enough to encounter her couldn’t help but be struck by that. She left this world on March 16, 2019, passing peacefully, comfortably, and loved back.

Born Nancy Louise Armistead on May 24, 1940 in Hampton, Virginia, she grew up in Norfolk and graduated from Maury High School in 1958. She attended Mary Baldwin College in Staunton and the Norfolk College of William & Mary, graduating from the latter in 1962 with a degree in English. It was during this time that she met Malcolm Church, an Ensign stationed in Norfolk who would eventually become her first husband.

While her accent would occasionally betray her native Virginian, Nancy’s sights were set far beyond her home state. She and her husband moved out west together, arriving in Southern California in 1964 where she drew inspiration from Claremont’s thriving folk music and arts scene. Their next few years were quite storied: the birth of their first child, buying and decorating their first home with their two children, going “back to the land” in Northern California and building a tipi to live in with their three children, moving to the Sacramento area and taking a 10-week road trip through 24 States with their four children, and eventually settling in Concord before giving birth to their fifth child.

Over the next decade, Nancy spent her time among different writers’ groups, writing children’s books, editing for and contributing articles to various regional publications, and co-owning a coffee shop. Eventually she discovered her paradise behind the Redwood Curtain and, drawn to the natural beauty, the quiet, and the cooler climate, Nancy relocated to Eureka in 1990. And she remained there with her second husband, Roy Hillyer.  

Passionate about the area and all it has to offer, it didn’t take Nancy long to meet people and get involved. She joined several local organizations, including the local chapter of the Red Hat Society, where she led the group’s kazoo band for a time, and the Unity Church of the Redwoods, where she eventually served as a minister. She made many appearances on community access television as well, hosting programs and conducting interviews that showcased positive living on the North Coast.

Nancy was also an avid writer, a recipe collector, and a self-proclaimed “locatarian”; and she put her passions to paper, contributing regularly to the Eureka Reporter as well as publishing a book on Humboldt County’s fantastic fare. She repeatedly expressed her appreciation and gratitude for those who supported and assisted her in this work. At the time of her passing, she had begun working on a book about local animal care providers.

She is survived by her children Hunter, Campbell, Josh, John, and Micah; her grandchildren Maya, Alex, Ivy, Bryn, and Avery; her husband Roy and her dog Quester. As per her wishes, Nancy’s ashes will be scattered in the Pacific Ocean as part of a small, private memorial service. In lieu of sending flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Nancy’s name to the following organizations.

Unity Church of the Redwoods

The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation

Miranda’s Rescue


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Nancy Only’s family. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.