“For whatever reason, I have always been driven by wanting the ‘real story’ － not the nice acceptable story, the romantic story, or the story as we wish it could be.”
– correspondence from Nancy, 2016
Nancy Shipp Paranka, age 58, died at home in Boulder, Colorado on September 25, 2021, two and a half years after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
Nancy is survived by daughter Allison Jennifer Paranka and husband David Gillett Paranka of Boulder; mother Dixie Shipp of Mendocino, California; older sisters Jennifer Shipp of Santa Rosa, California and Holly Rawlins of Mendocino; older brother James Shipp of Fort Bragg, California, and stepmother Marilyn Shipp of San Francisco.
Born Nancy Gillett Shipp to Thomas and Dixie Shipp on January 20, 1963, in Palo Alto, Nancy spent her childhood in and around Mill Valley, California. She graduated from Tamalpais High School there, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Toxicology from the University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology from the University of Arizona in Tucson in 1991, with a dissertation entitled, “Characterization of Mitoxantrone Cardiotoxicity in Cultured Heart Cells.”
She met and married David in Tucson, and they followed the relocation of her first job (not to mention David’s promise that the weather in Colorado is “really entertaining”) to make homes in first Denver, and then Boulder.
That first job was all it took to demonstrate to Nancy the fickle nature of W-2 work, and from then on, she worked as an independent consultant. Over the years, she developed an expertise not only in helping start-up pharmaceutical companies comply with FDA requirements for consistent and safe chemical synthesis, manufacturing, and packaging of new drug substances and drug products, but also in forging meaningful personal and professional connections with her colleagues.
But defining a person can be done perhaps better by what they love, rather than through a simple biography … and not the casual, “she loved to do this, that, and the other thing,” but rather what Nancy adored to a degree matched only by maybe one in a hundred.
Nancy loved using her strong body. It started with childhood ballet lessons, then continued in high school running and gymnastics, intercollegiate gymnastics at Davis, and yoga. She was introduced to backpacking in high school, which became a lifelong passion—with a bandana tied around her head, she would sling on her pack and somehow feel right at home after simply one step onto the trail. She would carry enough to pull her weight in a group that was staying out in the backcountry for a week or more.
But this joy was expressed most of all in cycling. She got her first taste in Davis, and her interest blossomed as she began to compete while working through graduate school. She won the Arizona state championships, the inaugural edition of New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila, and she competed in the Pan-Am Games trials. David and Nancy met, literally while riding side by side, when David introduced himself on a large group ride. Their wedding was planned around a fall colors honeymoon bike tour in Vermont, and for over 20 years they happily rode their tandem.
Nancy loved connecting with people, and she knew that it was her superpower. It was a frank yet kind sincerity that made each person she spoke with – either at her kitchen table as she prepared beautiful healthy dinners or in casual (but usually quite lingering!) chats at the grocery store – feel they had her entire attention and care. Allison would bring friends home, and half the time they would end up in a close relationship with Nancy as well. Even in her consulting work, Nancy developed relationships of the sort that she would counsel colleagues and clients regarding issues in their lives outside of work.
Part of what drew people to her was her ability to balance down to earth authenticity with an openness and curiosity towards the non-physical world. Often she would assist a friend by crafting their issue into a question for the I Ching – a system of divinatory guidance that Nancy studied with the same analytic and comprehensive focus she brought to her pharmaceutical work. Another source of insight for her was Human Design, the detailed personality charts of which inspired Nancy to help people find relief in accepting their inherent traits instead of fighting to be someone they’re not meant to be.
After long recognizing her love of understanding others and helping them with difficulties, Nancy was compelled to develop her interpersonal gifts further. She trained in the Hakomi method of psychotherapy and considered going into health & wellness coaching, all before realizing that life coaching was the ideal way to integrate her interests and talents. Several months before her life-altering diagnosis, she had retired from pharmaceutical consulting to focus exclusively on coaching. In spite of the (at times) overwhelming medical treatments, Nancy finished her certification through the Co-Active Training Institute (CTI), and she had begun to see clients in her new practice. She had registered the web site name, “MoreRoomToLive.com,” which was a testament to her purpose of helping people perceive more freedom and recognize options to live more rewarding lives.
This was, not surprisingly, one of the things she wanted most for her daughter – as finally, and most important of all, there is Nancy’s love for Allison. Nancy loved most of being pregnant, and what she didn’t love, she “didn’t mind.” She loved caring for and accompanying Allison during her years of growing up – always cheering her on, attending every performance and event of Allison’s, and packing her lunch every day for 15 years (something Allison marvels at to this day). As Allison became an adult, their relationship grew to include a joyful and rewarding friendship as they continued talking on the phone regularly and backpacking together every summer. They maintained this deep connection until the end – a degree of attachment known only to few.
Organizations to which Nancy consistently donated and asked to be named as beneficiaries of your wishes to donate in her name/honor: