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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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Donor Profile: Nancy and Bernie Picchi

Donor Profile: Nancy and Bernie Picchi

Nancy and Bernie Picchi
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Long-time supporters Nancy and Bernie Picchi recently made a major gift to our Campaign for the Future with a generous pledge of $50,000 that was issued as a challenge prior to this year’s Willa Cather Spring Conference. The goal was simple: match the pledge dollar-for-dollar with other private support. Thanks to conference-goers near and far, the Picchi challenge was successful, exceeding its initial goal with contributions totaling $123,270 to aid in the restoration of the Willa Cather Historic Sites.

A bibliophile and librarian, Nancy Picchi first visited Red Cloud with her sister in 1988. They made the long trip from New York by train, seeing the swath of countryside that Cather would have come to know when traveling from residences on the East Coast to visit family and friends in Nebraska. Upon learning of Nancy’s interest in historic preservation and her husband Bernie’s career in investment research analysis, Foundation founder Mildred Bennett appealed to Nancy to purchase the J. L. Miner House, also known as the Harling House in Cather’s My Ántonia.

With continued encouragement by Foundation staff, Nancy and Bernie agreed to purchase the house after an impromptu visit in 1990. On a hot July afternoon, they met Jennie Miner Reiher’s two sons and their wives, Robert and Hilda Reiher and Charles and Darlene Reiher. With the foresight of the Reihers, select original furnishings and collection materials were sold with the house, under the condition that the materials remain in Red Cloud. With the aid of Red Cloud resident Vi Borton, the Picchi’s were able to purchase additional original pieces of Miner family furniture. From the moment the Picchis bought the house and these items, they committed themselves to eventually donating them to the Willa Cather Foundation. Following more than a decade of intensive research to aid restoration efforts of the exterior façade, the Picchis gifted the preserved home and its notable collection to the Foundation in 2001.

Of this labor of love, Nancy Picchi recently recalled, “I feel so fortunate that Mildred Bennett shared her dreams about what the Cather Foundation should and could become with me in 1988 and 1989.” She continued, “Heeding her request that Bernie and I purchase the Harling House changed our lives in wonderful and unexpected ways.”

The Picchi’s recent gift is earmarked for additional restoration efforts at the Harling House. Period-appropriate gasolier-style lighting will be sought for the parlor and dining rooms, alongside additional efforts to seal the building envelope and restore the interior. Thanks to the Picchis, the home is a permanent feature on the Foundation’s guided town tour of Cather’s Red Cloud. Executive Director, Ashley Olson, remarked that donors like Bernie and Nancy Picchi are “a rarity.” She continued, “Thanks to their passion and commitment, a treasured literary landmark and associated collections will be preserved for future generations to experience and enjoy."

To donate to our Campaign for the Future, click HERE.

Please note that all gifts between now and December 31, 2020 will be matched by a recent anonymous donor upwards of $175,000!

If you are interested in making a major gift to the Willa Cather Foundation, please contact Ashley Olson, Executive Director, at or (402) 746-2653.