Note: This article was written in September 2016. Nancy Lang Boyer passed away December 17, 2020.
Nancy Lang Boyer wasn’t born in Boyertown.
But it was the hometown of her late husband, James K. Boyer, and the two of them lived there together for many years.
“I’ve grown very fond of Boyertown,” Nancy said recently.
The Boyers were so passionate about the area that they established the James K. and Nancy Lang Boyer Fund, which has contributed more than $200,000 to Boyertown area projects and programs since it became a part of Berks County Community Foundation about a decade ago. Prior to that, the fund was a private family foundation that contributed to charitable causes.
A Boyertown boy
Born in Boyertown, James Boyer was the great-great-grandson of Henry Boyer, who opened a general store and tavern at a stagecoach stop on the road from Philadelphia to Reading in the 1800s. Boyertown grew around the businesses.
James also was the son of the president of the National Bank of Boyertown and his great-grandfather was one of the bank’s founders.
He graduated from The Hill School in Pottstown and from Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he majored in political science.
He served in the Navy during World War II and again during the Korean War, when he was a radar officer on an aircraft carrier.
While he was still in the Navy and about to finish college, Nancy Lang, a native of Steelton, Pa., was attending a junior college outside of Boston. Her cousin told her she had to meet Jim Boyer.
“I had never heard of Boyertown then,” Nancy recalled. “But he came to meet me and he wore his uniform. Men were rare on campus, so he got a lot of attention. We went into Boston and had dinner at the restaurant that later became famous as Cheers.
“I knew he was going to come back to Boyertown one day. On our first date, he told me all about the town and what it’s about.”
After World War II, the two were married in 1948 and he took a job in Philadelphia with Curtis Publishing Co.’s paper division.
Then in 1955, he was named vice president of the Boyertown Packaging Corp. and the family moved back to Jim’s hometown.
In 1958, Jim and Nancy built a two-story fieldstone colonial in the middle of an apple orchard on top of a hill about a mile outside of town.
But they were close enough that they could hear the bells from the church they attended and, one time, Jim skied into town during a snowstorm.
In 1970, he was named chief executive officer of the National Bank of Boyertown, where he had a career for almost 20 years, retiring in 1989 as chief executive officer of what became the bank’s parent company, National Penn Bancshares. Jim oversaw a period of significant growth for the bank and helped usher in the first computer era of banking.
Meanwhile, he and Nancy had four children: Patricia, James Jr., Walter and Mary Ann.
Nancy became a painter, studying under Boyertown artist Nelson Grofe, who was a member of the Philadelphia Sketch club and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He did illustrations for numerous magazines.
“I did still lifes, and my work was with traditional oils, landscapes and portraits,” Nancy said. She became fairly well-known in the greater community. After breaking an ankle in 1984, Nancy switched from painting with oils to the pastels. “I quickly discovered it was easier to haul pastels than it was oil paints with a broken ankle,” she reflected. “With pastels, her work became looser and freer. A bit like Van Gogh in color and style,” noted her daughter, Mary Ann.
Nancy was accepted to the New York Pastel Society and over the years, she sold several paintings and her work was featured in many art shows.
After Jim died unexpectedly in 1991 at age 66 at their home, Nancy remained in the community for 25 years.
In August 2016, after 58 years in her Boyertown house, Nancy moved to Philadelphia to be closer to her two daughters. “I’m going to miss Boyertown,” Nancy said shortly before the move.
Boyertown remains in Nancy’s heart. And the Boyers are leaving behind a charitable spirit in the James K. and Nancy Lang Boyer Fund of Berks County Community Foundation. The fund will benefit Boyertown for generations to come. It remains near and dear to Nancy and her family.
Below are some of Nancy’s pieces: