Popular Community Volunteer Nan Abell

Originally written by Carl White.

When I first moved here in the mid-1970s, I remember hearing Nan Abell on 1490 WGCH AM radio talking about some interesting topics. At that time, I didn’t know that her Community Answers was housed in Greenwich Library. She had a distinctive voice, which was pleasant to listen to. She passed away in 2010, after many years of public service.


Nan Abell (nee Sallon) was born in the small mining town of Crosby MN on April 22, 1916. Her father was a mining engineer, who operated his own mine, and later served as the minority leader in the Minnesota State Legislature. Nan graduated from the University of Minnesota, where she studied acting and radio. In the late 1930s, she moved to New York City, working as a host for a children’s radio show on WQXR radio. She also began producing programs for WNBC radio. In 1947, Nan married film producer Frank Taylor. Frank was offered a job in Hollywood, so they moved out to the west coast.  She gave up her career to raise a family. Unfortunately, they were victims of the McCarthy hearings (The Red Scare) and were threatened with blacklisting. So Nan and Frank moved back east to New York. By 1952, they moved to Greenwich (like many couples did) to raise their four sons in a suburban setting. Nan Taylor ended up living in Greenwich for 60 years. Unfortunately, Nan and Frank divorced in 1975.  In 1979, Nan married Hollywood psychiatrist Richard Abell.


Nan Abell lived in a time when women were expected to stay at home and take care of the family, while the husband was the main breadwinner. Although many women were intelligent and talented, they were not welcome in the Boardroom. Women saw volunteerism as a way to share their gifts and talents. Many were very adept at raising funds for worthwhile causes.

She was devoted to public service throughout her life. Nan served on the Greenwich Board of Education from 1967 to 1973. During her term, she was able to get the Board to adopt a new budget system, and get approval for the construction of a new high school.  Other education-related volunteerism included the Old Greenwich PTA and Greenwich Association for Public Schools. She was the founder of the Gateway Day Care Center and helped start the United Way. Over the years, she served on the boards of numerous organizations. These included: the National Board of Day Care and Child Development; Board of Bruce Museum; Regional Child Care Council; Board of Connecticut Association for Human Services; Greenwich Council on Parenting and Child Care. In 1980, Governor Ella Grasso asked Nan to go to Washington DC as a delegate to the White House Conference on Families. This demonstrated her dedication to improving the quality of life for families.


Her greatest accomplishment was founding Community Answers. She served as Director from 1976 to 1987. This organization provided telephone information about local organizations and events, as well as other useful information. Under her leadership, the group handled 20,000 calls per year. This was during the pre-Internet years when research was much more tedious. Its budget grew from $16,000 to $36,000 per year. It became one of the most used services of its kind in the country. Community Answers provided a valuable information resource for the library.

Nan said she got a very unique vision of the town, based on the many different demographics that used the system, and the varied questions they received. Greenwich is not primarily an affluent community, but rather a heterogeneous cross-section of people. The diversity is striking. People consider themselves part of New York and part of New England. And they have a variety of different information needs.

Nan was a skilled cook and gracious hostess. Since her husband was part of the literary world, they entertained many celebrities. Producer Arthur Miller and his wife, Marilyn Monroe, were among those people. They enjoyed entertaining friends at their Belle Haven home.

Nan Abell died from pneumonia on July 3, 2010, at Nathaniel Witherell. She leaves behind a great 30-year legacy of volunteerism and leadership in the community. She affected so many areas of town life. Greenwich will be forever grateful for her service.


Greenwich Time, Southwestern Connecticut Newspapers; Stamford, CT  06902; May 8, 1988 and July 10, 2010.


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