Nancy L. Pontes
1941 – 2018
Essay by Thomas Pontes and Melissa Pontes
Many people in Little Compton knew Nancy as the lady in a light blue nurse uniform, coming directly to their homes to deliver basic medical care during her time as Nursing Director of the Little Compton Visiting Nurses Association (VNA).
And from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s, she always came to them in a little silver VNA car.
They were not the greatest cars – a Toyota Corona, Dodge Aspen, and finally, a well-loved but shopworn Fiat 124 with a stick shift. The Fiat became infamous because only Nancy could get the car into reverse. The guys at East Repair once called the VNA to ask her to come over and back the car out of the shop, as nobody could get it into reverse.
Then again, what else would one expect from one of Manny Cavaca’s daughters? Manny and Marjorie (Chase) Cavaca had six girls (Dorothy, Connie, Jeanette, Sally, Nancy, and Mary Lou), raising them in a small 2-bedroom home next to Cavaca’s Gas Station on Main Road in Tiverton, just south of Four Corners. With no sons to work into the garage business, the girls all grew up knowing a little about cars, and a lot about farming, raising animals, country living, and how to throw a great clam boil.
Nancy earned a full merit scholarship to the Newport Hospital School of Nursing when she graduated Wilbur High School in 1959, paving the way to a career in the hospital ICU until joining the VNA in 1976. She came to realize the people in Little Compton needed the skills the VNA brought to them even more, especially as they aged.
While raising her 2 children and working at the VNA, Nancy continued to build her skills, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Salve Regina in 1983, and later a Licensed Family Nurse Practitioner’s designation from URI in 1990. In 1988, she returned to Newport Hospital for the remainder of her career as Director of ElderCare Services, focusing on developing geriatric and pet therapy programs, as well as, specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
Upon Nancy’s retirement from her long nursing career, she led a relatively quiet and private life and found working in her beautiful flower gardens and spending time with her children and four grandchildren the most rewarding.
Many great nurses work in the ICU, but not many of them could find their way around Little Compton before street signs and house numbers, let alone smartphones.
And nobody else could wrangle the old Fiat into reverse.
Thomas Pontes and Melissa Pontes, Son and Daughter
Exhibit Text from 2020 Special Exhibition
Nancy grew up as one of Manny and Marjorie Cavaca’s six daughters, raised in a small two-bedroom home next to their gas station on Main Road in Tiverton. The girls were all taught a little about cars and a lot about farming.
Nancy earned a full merit scholarship to the Newport Hospital School of Nursing when she graduated Wilbur High School in 1959, paving the way to a career in the hospital ICU. In 1976 she joined the Visiting Nurse Association and realized the great need for home health care in Little Compton, especially as the population aged. Her time at the gas station paid off when the VNA’s old Fiat refused to reverse for anyone except Nancy.
While raising her two children and working at the VNA, Nancy continued to build her skills, earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Salve Regina in 1983, and graduating as a Family Nurse Practitioner from URI in 1990. In 1988, she returned to Newport Hospital for the remainder of her career as Director of ElderCare Services, specializing in dementia and Alzheimer’s care.