Nancy Flaherty. Family photos

Nancy Flaherty, a nurse practitioner who worked for the Portland Public Health Division caring for people who are homeless, died Wednesday after a period of declining health. She was 77.

Mrs. Flaherty was remembered this week as a strong and compassionate woman, devoted to family and the community.

She worked for the city’s public health division for more than 25 years at its clinic on Portland Street, which provides health care and other services to the city’s homeless population.

Tom Flaherty, her husband of nearly 59 years, said Wednesday his wife was loved by clinic staff and the people she served. He said she had an impact on many lives.

“She was amazing,” her husband said. “She cared about people. The homeless people just loved her.”

Peggy Akers, a longtime nurse practitioner who worked with Flaherty, wrote a letter to city officials Wednesday saying the city lost a “true hero.”

“All of us who knew Nancy learned from her how to provide the loving kindness healthcare towards our unhoused and most vulnerable folks in Portland,” Akers wrote. “Everyone who was touched by Nancy knew the true compassion of this nurse.”

Akers shared a story about Flaherty helping one man who had lost everything. She “held him as he wept and then guided him through his health journey and reunification of his family,” Akers wrote. “He was clear … that if it wasn’t for Nancy he would have gone down a path of despair. Now, he was a professor, a new father, and helping others through their desperate times.”

Mrs. Flaherty volunteered at the city’s free healthcare clinic and STD clinic. She previously worked at Southern Coastal Family Planning on Forest Avenue in Portland, now Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. She stayed with the organization for about eight years.

Tom and Nancy Flaherty

Mrs. Flaherty was a 1961 graduate of Portland High School. Her husband said they were high school sweethearts. They were married in 1962 and lived in Falmouth, where they raised four children.

“We had a fantastic life,” her husband said. “We had four great kids. She was an excellent mother. She was caring, loving, firm and understanding. She was all about the kids all the time, and it was always like that right up until yesterday.”

Mrs. Flaherty enjoyed going to yard sales and buying things for her grandchildren, her husband said.

In recent years, she enjoyed attending shows at Ogunquit Playhouse, especially “Jersey Boys.” She also saw Bon Jovi in concert several times.

“She was quite a lady,” her husband said. “She was friends with everybody. She said what was on her mind and didn’t hold back. That probably irritated some people at times, but you knew where she stood.”

Mrs. Flaherty endured a years-long battle with COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She died early Wednesday at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House with her husband by her side. He said his wife held on until he could be there with her.

“It was unbelievable,” he said. “I’ll miss her being here and directing traffic. I’ll miss her telling everybody what they need to do and should do. I’ll miss her helping me with things … making sure I get the grocery list right … things like that. I’ll miss her being here with us.”

Mrs. Flaherty’s obituary is scheduled to be published in the Maine Sunday Telegram.

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