Nan Raker Deressa

August 15, 1939 ~ September 24, 2021 (age 82)


Nan Raker Deressa, passed away at 1a.m. Friday morning 24 September, 2021. She was 82. The Partner and Wife of Manuel Colunga-Hernandez of rural Deer River Minnesota. Given the Hebrew Name of Nahama Bat Eliazer ben Zvi ben Aharon HaCohen, she was born in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania the 15th of August 1939 to Lester Raker (Chn) and Miriam Schiowitz, a few years later was joined by her Sister, Dina. Dina lives in Las Vegas, and has adult children and grandchildren. The family residence in Scranton, was on Nandi Drive, named by her father (d.) who was part of the development group for his two daughters. He was the owner of the Raker Paint Factories in Scranton PA and Bridgeport CN – Nan’s Mother (d.) was his office manager for some time. Nan attended school at Wyoming Seminary. When she graduated she had been awarded almost every literary and Mathematics award being offered at the school. Including one in French. This was only a portent of the talents within Nan. Having taken a job for a trucking company during a summer stint in her junior year entering data on punch-cards for a UNIVAC computer system tracking data on shipments, she set a path that later would play an important role in her life. Her skills in the graphic arts as well was just one of many things Nan had mastered in her young life. She did her graduate studies at Columbia at Barnard in the Anthropology Department, it was around this time her first daughter Eva Rosen was born, (Eva, who lives in MA, has two children, Sarah and Ian). Nan and her first husband Keith Rosen divorced after some time. Nan left Barnard as an all but dissertation Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia (Yale). And in the early 1970’s while in New York, Nan met an Ethiopian poet and intellectual by the name of Solomon Deressa (d.). They fell in love and Nan moved with him to Addis Ababa and lived in Ethiopia for 7 years. Solomon was made the Director of Radio Ethiopia, Nan produced a show ‘Sunday Opera’. She did local art shows and experimented with the colors she saw around her in Ethiopia. It was sometime during this stay that Nan transcribed a book of Poems From Childhood, “Liginette” by Solomon, on an Ethiopian Elite typewriter - which unknown at the time was to launch Solomon as an international author. About a year before the overthrow of Hilas Salassi and the Mengistu regimes takeover by force of the Ethiopian state, Nan and Solomon found themselves in the University of Iowa at Iowa City Solomon had gone to partake in a Reading Studies program. It was there their daughter Galanne Yodit Deressa was born (Galanne works for the United Nations Family Planning Agency, and is married and has two children; Mossisa and Ella). Nan and Solomon, found themselves in exile and that many they had known died or had very narrowly escaped with their lives. Nan and Solomon moved to Minneapolis Solomon found a position at the University Without Walls. In early 1987, Nan and Solomon divorced. Liginette became an underground classic in Ethiopia during the years of revolution and terror – and all because of Nan’s persistence. When things got hard, Nan found a position as a Dean’s Secretary in the University of Minnesota Financial Aide Office, and they lived in South Minneapolis. It was from there she received an offer to train in Data Processing working on the University’s IBM mainframe computer systems. She excelled in her skills and jumped into programming. She wrote the first color program for the University Library’s Cataloging system. She went on to work for CAP Gemini America a then well-known provider of corporate program maintenance and production. Over her years in programming she became a Senior Programmer Analyst. she then started working with 2 friends on contract work, providing her skills for people such as North American Casualty and Life, Daytons, and Burlington Northern. In August of 1987 at the Harmonic Convergence in Inver Grove Heights MN, at about 5:00 p.m., Nan harmonically converged with a like soul – and she and Manuel Colunga-Hernandez were Handfasted that year on the 20th of December amidst a group of family and friends. In 1990, Nan and Manuel moved north having found a place for Nan’s vision of being an artist in oils could flourish and Manuel could use his skills to keep them alive doing his art in metals. Manuel and Nan married in 1994, legally. With what Nan was able to do along with Manuel created two studios, Deressa Studio and Silver Spider Forge. Nan was a painter and painted in oils, pastels and did portraits up until the early 2000’s when she was getting a bit of tremor in her hands. Nan’s favorite things in life were mushroom hunting from which she got her nickname ‘Miss Hot Moccasins’ when foraging Shaggy Mane or Inkies! She loved berry picking and was proud of never once: no matter how many sit-downs, that she never spilled a bucket of berries. Nan and Manuel did all sorts of graphic arts projects and experiments – their motto was; Art is meant to be lived. It was because of Manny’s insistence that Nan try a desktop computer that Nan’s net prowess soon became locally known and she became a volunteer webmistress to the GR Library, and went on to work for hire to two hospitals, a public utility and other public and private services. She was as well an Ordained Minister and studied Herbs and natural medicines with Susun Weed. In most recent years health was a serious issue, Nan survived a diagnosis of Breast Cancer 3 times and many other major health issues such as an aneurysm on her descending aorta that required 4 minor stints and a major stint. (She had a heart attack in 1995) She had been ill most recently for about 3 days and Thursday was a rough day. She passed at 1 a.m. on Friday Morning at their home. Only so much can be said of one person without gushing over – but suffice it to say to her friends, her family which includes one beautiful little black cat named Jade, she was more than just a special soul, she really shined. She requested no funeral or service. However Manuel requests that those that would like to pay a last respects may contact him and there is a family gathering planned in the near future, in which all may come who want to and pay their last respects to Nan. Manuel would like to express to all that he knows Nan was very loved by all who knew her, and the world has lost a bright and shining soul. We can only hope the light she spread while she lived will inspire and continue to inspire. Nan was truly one of a kind.

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