Photo of a thoughtful Nancy Warren moderating one of our Candidate Forums by Micael Brunkf

Nancy Warren, a teacher at Highline College, Des Moines resident, musician and partner for Breeders Theater, volunteer for the Des Moines Arts Commission, loving wife to Dr. TM Sell, occasional Moderator of our candidate forums and much more – passed away suddenly on Friday, Dec. 5 from complications due to breast and lung cancer.

Nancy’s sudden passing was a tragic and painful punch to the gut of many in the community, as she was a very bright, personable, popular and intelligent woman with many friends.

A memorial service will be held this Sunday, Dec. 14, at 4 p.m. at Calvary Lutheran Church in Federal Way.

Our hearts go out to her husband TM, family, friends and co-workers who are all already missing her tremendously.

Nancy was 52, but with the mind, spirit and energy of someone less than half her age.

If cranky old Lou Grant was ever around Nancy, he definitely would’ve said:

Lou Grant: You know what, you’ve got spunk!
Nancy: Well, yes…
Lou Grant: I *hate* spunk!

Quite prolific on Facebook, she almost always had a huge smile that lit up in nearly every photo, especially those with family:












Sadly, websites like Facebook are now becoming the place where we often hear of friends’ passings. We first learned about hers on a post by her husband of 19 years, TM Sell:

“Nancy Warren, 1962-2014. Rest well, ferry princess. A thousand tiny joys go with you.”

Condolences and memories have flooded both Nancy’s and TM’s Facebook pages, with posts like:

Josh Pehrson: “Last night, I learned my godmother Nancy Warren had been hospitalized, suddenly, earlier in the week. Two hours later, my parents called me and told me she had passed away. The last 24 hours have been so tough, and I already miss her so much. I’m unimaginably grateful for her presence in my life for the last 18 years. With so little time to take in her decline, I urge anyone reading this to take a minute and, in the words of her husband, go smooch a loved one – or even a friend – and tell him or her how much they mean to you. I’m sending lots of love to my Uncle Dr. T.m. and Amanda. Peace to both of you.”

Tara Sweeney‎: “On Friday, the jobs numbers were released and we learned how strong our economy is…We’ve been waiting for your perfectly educational post blaming Obama. Makes us so sad to know that post is not coming. But know you’ve trained us well, and you’ll always be thought of when great news is released.”

Janet Freeman-Daily: “Yesterday another warm, loving friend was taken by cancer. I will never again experience Nancy Warren playing lovely keyboard music, adopting another stray animal, demonstrating her cooking mastery, remarking on events in the classes she taught, or sharing pictures of beer and snowglobes acquired in foreign lands. Enjoy your meetings at the Rainbow Bridge, Nancy. Hugs to T.m. Sell , her family, and the many friends and students she touched in her lifetime.”

Mark MacDonald‎: “I think Nancy would have loved tonight’s Colbert Report broadcast with President Barack Obama. He hit it out of the park. Certainly he’ll be criticized but that’s the plight of any President. While on the outside Nancy and I appeared to have our differences, we were both moderate in our approach to political issues (but loved to stir the pot) and, among other things, I will miss her wit and our discussions on economics, politics, education, and family. Missing you, Nancy.”

Sam Blanton‎: “I find myself coming back to your FB page over and over – I guess I am somehow hoping that this is all a bad dream and that your post about a student who can’t understand how to knock on your office door or who asks for extra credit will prove me right.”

Darlene G. Miller‎: “The world has lost a bright, shining star. You were so committed to your students, to learning, to social justice and community. You lived life to the fullest. You made me laugh and appreciate life – I will miss all your damn Facebook posts and photos! It was a privilege to be able to call you my friend. Thank you for your courage of conviction, officiating at the marriages of your gay and lesbian friends. There will always be a special place in mine and Rahle’s hearts. I will miss you my friend but I know the world is a much better place having had you in it.”

Chris N. Johnson: “I will always remember the one phrase she always tried to instill in all of her students in all of her classes: Choose wisely. Nancy Warren, I love to dearly, and will never forget you. You were a true friend and champion to me.”

Paula M. Burckhard‎: “Nancy was the best teacher I had at Highline. She was proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks. She made me laugh, remember the good ol days, learn new things. She will be warmly remembered and greatly missed. Praying for comfort in your time of sorrow.”

Mayumi Fumagalli Kumagai‎: “What…? It must be a joke right, Nancy? I even didn’t know what happened to you. You are still in your office at HCC and waiting me to visit, aren’t you? Because I and Ayaka were seriously planing to visit you.
Literally I really can’t believe..
I still remember your big smile, enthusiasm, kindness and everything like a yesterday.
You are the best teacher in my life and great person.
I can’t believe..”

Lucie Jiraskova‎: “Just heard that devastating news that saddened me deeply. I am shocked, hurt and cannot stop crying. The most beautiful woman, full of life, love and laughter, who touched the life of hundreds of others and was the inspiration for her students, passed away last night. Gone too soon. City of Des Moines, Highline college and lives of many will not be the same. Nancy, you will be greatly missed. We love you!!”

Here are some interesting items from Nancy’s FB page:

“Is it vacation yet?”

“I’m still me! And now I’m 50 and happy to be 50. It beats the alternative.”


  • “I think, therefore I am”
  • “I’ll think about it tomorrow!”
  • “Here we are now, entertain us.”

Originally from Aberdeen, Nancy attended Weatherwax High School, Grays Harbor College, University of Puget Sound, Cornell University and Central Washington University.

Nancy will be missed tremendously by many, including everyone at South King Media.

Our deepest sympathies go out to all who knew her, and even those who didn’t.

Here’s a video shot by Michael Brunk showing Nancy singing and playing piano during a Breeders Theater rehearsal:

YouTube player

We think it’s appropriate to end our brief tribute to Nancy with this quote from her husband TM Sell:

“Tonight, if you haven’t already, give your significant other a big hug, maybe even a big wet one, and tell him or her how much you love them.”

9 replies on “Prolific resident Nancy Warren passes away suddenly; memorial will be Sunday”

  1. This is a very well-written article for Nancy. It sums up pretty much everything about her. She was a fantastic teacher, one who taught us many lessons.

  2. The photo of Nancy at the top of the page is how I will always remember her. She thought hard, worked hard, and played hard. She was one of the good ones. I have so many fond memories of her– especially the nicknames she gave everyone and her BBQ salmon!

  3. I never met Nancy, but I had TM Sell as an instructor at Highline in 2001. While I didn’t do well in his class (my fault) , he definitely made an impression on me. He’s 1 of a kind, and I am sad to hear of her passing. My condolences to Dr. Sell, and their family.

  4. I did not know Nancy but I graduated with Warren and send he and his family my condolences on her death. I can only imagine the anguish in losing a child. My prayers are with you.

    1. Patricia, your daughter was such an amazing spirit. She was my professor and life mentor. I learned so much from her and still think of her often. She will not be soon forgotten. Thank you for raising such an incredible woman, I am sorry for your loss.

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