Obituary of Nancy J. Higgins

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Nancy J. Higgins

October 21, 1935 - September 14, 2007

Hampton Union, Sunday, September 16, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Nancy J. Higgins

HAMPTON -- Nancy J. Higgins, 71, of Island Path, died peacefully on Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, surrounded by her loving children and her dear brother.

She was born in Somerville, Mass., on Oct. 21, 1935, the daughter of the late George H. and Catherine M. (Diakowicz) Bryant. She and her brother, George grew up in Somerville and Natick, Mass. She was a 1953 graduate of Natick High School.

Family members include her three children and their families, Joseph A. Higgins III, his wife, Karen and their daughters, Tanya and Katrina of Hampton, Michael D. Higgins and his wife, Lisbeth and their sons, Jacob and Andrew of North Hampton, and Kathi Taylor and her husband, Lee and their children, Morgan, Karsan and Garrett of Kensington; her brother, George H. Bryant Jr. and his wife, Alice of Trophy Club, Texas, and their children, Sharon Morin, Kelly Bryant and Nicole Bryant; and her ex-husband, Joseph A. Higgins II of North Chelmsford, Mass.

WE REMEMBER: She married in 1958 and raised three children, Joe, Mike and Kathi, in Southboro, Mass.

In 1977, she purchased a home at Hampton Beach and founded the Old Salt Guest House. She gathered her children to open the Old Salt Restaurant on Ocean Boulevard in 1986. After many happy years running the Old Salt together, their beloved restaurant was destroyed by fire in 1999 and they relocated to their present location in the center of Hampton. Nancy loved working with her children and the staff and customers became like family to her.

She will be remembered for her contributions to the community. She was a founding member of Seacoast Area Feline Education & Rescue, Inc. (SAFER) and was active in maintaining feeding stations, feline adoption and fund-raising for many years.

We remember how proud she was of her seven grandchildren, how she loved get-togethers with her family, especially Christmas celebrations, and her love of cats, animals, bird-watching and being outdoors.

SERVICES: A celebration of her life will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday at the conference center at the Inn of Hampton, 815 Lafayette Road, Hampton. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to SAFER, Inc., P.O. Box 1531, Hampton, NH 03843. Arrangements are by the Remick & Gendron Funeral Home-Crematory. Online condolences may be made at

Old Salt Founder, Local Legend Dies

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, September 18, 2007

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- Family and friends this week are mourning the loss of Nancy J. Higgins, founder and matriarch of the Old Salt Restaurant at Hampton Beach.

"She was just a fantastic person," said her son Michael. "She was a very strong woman who loved this restaurant and the community she lived in."

Higgins, 71, died Friday morning surrounded by her daughter, Kathi Taylor, two sons, Joseph and Michael, and her brother, George Bryant.

A celebration of life was held in her honor last night at the Conference Center at the Inn of Hampton.

Those who knew Nancy remembered her as a strong business woman who started out as a waitress and worked her way up to establishing one of the most well-known restaurants on the Seacoast.

Others remember the "softer side" in which she would do anything for anybody especially her children, grandchildren and those who worked at her restaurant.

"She almost had two personalities," said Michelle O'Brien, one of the managers of the Old Salt. "She was this strong business woman but then there was this softer side where she would really do anything for anybody.

"We have had employees down on their luck and she would bend over backwards for these people. I think that is why she was so successful. Anytime anybody would need anything they would come to her."

Michael said his mother started what would eventually become the Old Salt when she decided to move to the beach permanently back in 1976.

At the time, she purchased a home at Hampton Beach and founded the Old Salt Guest House on J Street. Inside the guest house, she opened up a little sub shop, "The Salty Dog."

Ten years later her dream of opening up her very own restaurant became a reality when she purchased the Corona House in 1986. She renamed the restaurant, located at 83 Ocean Blvd., The Old Salt Eating & Drinking Place and called on her two sons and daughter to help run the establishment.

Michael said probably the hardest thing Nancy had to deal with was when the restaurant burned to the ground at the height of its popularity in 1999.

Not only did she lose her business but also her home, which was located on the second floor of the restaurant.

"She was devastated," O'Brien said. "I mean that was her whole life. It was emotionally draining for her but it didn't take long for her to pick up the pieces. I remember her saying 'we have a lot of employees and we can't just sit here and feel sorry for ourselves.'"

"It wasn't in our family nature to give up," Michael said.

Within two weeks of the fire, Nancy reopened the Old Salt at the Whales Tale located inside the Casino building.

"She had the restaurant up and running again before she even had a new wardrobe or any toiletries," O'Brien said. "She just got right back to work because she was worried about all of her employees."

Family members moved the restaurant to downtown Hampton in 2001 when they purchased Lamie's Inn & Tavern.

O'Brien said she always looked up to Nancy and will never forget everything she has taught her.

"To me, Nancy was such a great example of how strong women can be and how they can make it on their own."

Remembering a 'great and caring friend'

By Jerry McConnell

Atlantic News, February 8, 2008

Seacoast New Hampshire recently lost one of its most loved and widely known residents, Nancy Higgins, proprietor of the Old Salt Restaurant in Hampton. This great lady was known to thousands of people who live in or have visited Hampton's famous beach, particularly when her restaurant was located there.

Nancy had a wonderful family of two sons, Joe and Michael, and a daughter, Kathi. That was the nucleus for what would become one of New England's busiest summer restaurants when it was opened in 1986.

For 13 wonderful years a trip to the beach was not complete if a visit to the "Old Salt" hadn't been included. It was at some point during those years when I first met Nancy and became a firm friend.

My wife Betty and I have been animal lovers all of our lives and when a mutual friend named Charlotte introduced me to Nancy I began to find out more about this fascinating lady and discovered that she was a "guardian angel and savior" to abandoned and stray kitties.

These little felines are officially labeled as "feral," but that sounds more ominous than it really is. Fact of the matter, most of them are just frightened after being abandoned by their summer caretakers, and they haven't adjusted to living on their own in the wild, so to speak. Most are just nice little kitties looking for a home and some tender loving care, which they are quick to return.

In 1998 Nancy got involved with saving these little furballs of joy. She got an organization formed that was titled, Seacoast Area Feline Education and Rescue. "SAFER" as it is more commonly known, is a "not-for-profit" organization, with all volunteers, dedicated to the well being of homeless cats and kittens left abandoned in the New Hampshire Seacoast area. Though I have never worked directly with that group of animal lovers I do support their goals and have offered other assistance to them.

In 1999, Nancy's pride and joy, the Old Salt Eating and Drinking Place at Hampton Beach, was destroyed by fire. Nancy's home and the whole family's lives were disrupted by the flames and smoke leaving only memories and ashes. But this calamity wasn't about to stop such a courageous woman in her quest for a better life for her family and a friendly place for (by then) her legion of admiring customers. She reopened on the site of the Whale's Tale Restaurant in the Hampton Beach Casino complex and operated her much-loved food operation for two years before making a monumental change.

In the Spring of 2001 Nancy and family ventured uptown in Hampton and purchased the existing Lamies Inn and Tavern centrally located at the intersection of Lafayette and Exeter Roads. And her scores of admiring patrons followed her, making that business establishment one of the busiest in Hampton as it had been while at the Beach.

After the relocation became established and the operation was competently in the skilled hands of sons Joe as General Manager, and Michael as Executive Chef and daughter Kathi as Business Operations Manager, Nancy scaled back her activities and devoted more time to her beloved grandchildren. For the past few years she has also spent her winters in the warmer climes of Florida.

This wonderful lady was taken from us at the much too young age of 71. On the 21st of this past October she would have reached her 72nd birthday and undoubtedly would have continued her contributions to her communities here and in Florida. The many little kitties that she saved from starvation and untold sicknesses are somewhere, in their own way, mourning this loss of a great and caring friend. The ones that are yet to come, who will never get to know of her generous love and kindness, will be the losers.

And, lest you think that she was only interested in saving homeless and starving cats or other animals, please know that her caring also extended to people who were out of the mainstream and down on their luck. She was known for the help and caring she gave to many less fortunate people when their plights became known to her.

It is my hope that this community of not just Hampton, but the entire Seacoast area, will somehow put something together to remember Nancy Higgins' contributions of caring for others and making the area a better place in which to live. Any activities to this end will have my total support and I feel certain that most of the other local residents will feel equally responsive to such an acknowledgement for her.

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