Obituary: Nancy Kay Brien

July 6, 1941 ~ Aug. 21, 2023

Nancy Kay Brien, 82, of Madison and Egg Harbor, died peacefully Monday morning, Aug. 21, 2023, in the comfort of her home in Egg Harbor with family at her side.

She was born July 6, 1941 in the central Wisconsin village of Port Edwards, the daughter of Thomas Francis Boles and Florence Jane (Wilhorn) Boles. Nan grew up attending St. Alexander’s Parish in Port Edwards. She graduated from Assumption High School in Wisconsin Rapids with the class of 1959 and went on to study biology at the College of Saint Teresa in Winona, MN.  Upon her graduation from Saint Teresa’s in 1963, Nan enrolled in the Master’s program at Marquette University in Milwaukee to study immunology. She combined her study with full-time work as a research assistant at Marquette and graduated in 1968 with her Master’s Degree.
Nan first met Robert James Brien, a student at St. Mary’s University in Winona, while she was studying at St. Teresa’s. They were engaged on Valentine’s Day in 1966 and united in marriage later that year on Aug. 6 at Nan’s home parish of St. Alexander’s in Port Edwards.

Nan dedicated her life to public education and child advocacy. She was a child advocate and associate director for the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families from 1992 until her retirement in 2004.

Nan was a member of East Side Progressives, served on the board of directors for the South Central Library, was elected to the Madison School Board (1985-1994) where she served as School Board President for three of those years, was a board member on the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, and was one of the founding members of GRUMPS in 2005 (Grandparents United for Madison Public Schools). She loved the Packers, Brewers, and Badgers, but also had a special place in her heart for Marquette basketball, Air Force football, and SEMO soccer. Above all, she loved her family and was a proud grandma and great-grandma.

Nan will be missed by her husband, Bob, with whom she was blessed with over 57 years of marriage; three children, Patrick (Pam) Brien of Oregon, WI, Thomas  (Betty) Brien of Madison, and Kathleen Brien of Madison; five grandchildren, Courtney (Josh) Tripp, Jen (Tanner) Ward, and Nick Brien, and Ty Brien and Paige Brien; great-grandson, Tucker Tripp; among other relatives; and friends.

Nan’s life will be celebrated privately by family.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given in her honor for the Madison Public Schools Foundation (2005 W. Beltline Highway Suite 203, Madison, WI 53713; or Kids Forward (122 W. Washington Avenue Suite 620, Madison, WI 53703;

Our family received incredible support in Door County and would like to express our heartfelt thanks to Ascension at Home, Home Instead, and Unity Hospice staff for the wonderful and compassionate care given to Nan.

Huehns Funeral Home, Inc. & Door County Crematory LLC in Sturgeon Bay are assisting the Brien family. Expressions of sympathy, memories, and photos of Nancy may be shared with her family through her tribute page at