Hiker Found Dead in Park Was Local Resident

First published in the Sept. 25 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Photo courtesy Proffitt family Local resident Nancy Proffitt, who died earlier this month, “was always a laugh or shoulder to cry on to anyone who needed it,” said members of her family.

Police have identified a woman found dead earlier this month near a Stough Canyon Park hiking trail as Nancy Proffitt, a Burbank resident.
Proffitt was reported missing on Sept. 8, the Burbank Police Department said, and her body was found the following day. Sgt. Emil Brimway, a police spokesman, said the department believes the hiker’s death was due to an accident or medical emergency, though detectives are waiting for a report from the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.
Her family described the 65-year-old as a “wonderful mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend.”
“She was always a laugh or shoulder to cry on to anyone who needed it and made the most of every day she had,” her husband, Bill, and daughter, Carly, said in a statement. “She lived big and lit up every room she was in.”
Nancy and Bill Proffitt successfully lobbied the City Council in 2015 to name a hiking trail in Stough Canyon Park in memory of their son, Shane, a 17-year-old who his family said died from a reaction to his medication, the Leader reported at the time.
Nancy Proffitt was not found on the trail named after her son, Brimway said in an email.
Annie McGruddy, who was friends with Proffitt for more than 40 years, said she loved to hike and exercise and was a loyal Philadelphia Eagles fan. The pair met while working in Philadelphia for KYW-TV Channel 3. Proffitt had turned 65 on Sept. 5, only a few days before she was reported missing.
“She was the best kind of friend to have,” McGruddy said. “She was always there for anybody who needed her. She was one of a kind.”
Local resident Mina Ho Ferrante said Proffitt had an infectious laugh that could make others feel more at ease, no matter how stressful the situation. Ferrante often called her “Nancy Poppins” due to her willingness to watch other families’ children for them.
“Anytime I needed her, she always flew over,” Ferrante said.
Tina Lay, whose children Proffitt helped care for, said kids seemed to be drawn to her. Lay explained that Proffitt, whose son Shane had autism, helped teach Lay how to advocate for her own son, who also has autism. And even when school resumed this year while Lay was out of town, Proffitt was there to take her kids to their first day of class.
Proffitt is still on her children’s emergency contact list at school, Lay added — she can’t bring herself to remove her name.
“She taught our kids a lot. She taught us moms a lot,” Lay said.
Proffitt’s family encourages those who wish to honor her memory to donate to local nonprofit BCR: A Place to Grow and Descanso Gardens.
“She is deeply missed by everyone who knew and loved her, but we are comforted that she is reunited with her beautiful son Shane in heaven,” Bill and Carly Proffitt said. “We hope that everyone can take a little Nancy magic with them to make the world a kinder place.”