A recent late summer morning found Nancy Roucher sitting in her living room, looking out at the spectacular view of Roberts Bay. It’s a bittersweet moment. She’ll be moving soon, relocating to a new apartment she’s purchased downtown in Bay Plaza.
“I hate to leave this house,” she said. “But I plan to make the most of it.”
Being closer to the Sarasota arts scene is an important consideration. After all, it’s a scene Nancy helped create. Twice director of the Arts Council and a nationally recognized authority on arts education, Nancy has been a reliable presence at every major — and many minor — arts events around town for 28 years.
She and her husband, Jerry, who died in October, were a power couple in the local arts world, a bridge from the inspired volunteer leadership of the old days to the highly polished professional arts administrators of today.
The home she and Jerry shared is quintessential Sarasota. Located on north Siesta Key, it has a view of mangrove islands and the north bridge. The clean lines of the Sarasota School of Architecture are clearly evident in its simple design and walls of glass. And looking around the living room you can see that all the classic Sarasota names are represented. Animating one wall is a Syd Solomon triptych, one of his most colorful. A rare Jon Corbino ceramic plate hangs nearby. The piano Dick Hyman played every New Year’s Eve is in a corner. As midnight neared he would begin his own jazz improvisation of “Auld Lang Syne.”
There are more personal touches, too. An ornate brass samovar, which Nancy’s grandmother brought from Poland when she immigrated in the late 1800s, sits in the dining room. It’s a reminder that this is first and foremost a home where family counted most.
The Rouchers discovered Sarasota when Jerry retired from the family-owned liquor distribution business back in Decatur, Ill. They were young for retirees, barely in their 50s.
“We could have gone anywhere,” Nancy said. “But we were small-town people, and we wanted a sense of community. And Jerry wanted someplace warm.”
They worked their way across the state, scoping out properties and towns, until they arrived in Sarasota.
“We knew exactly one person here,” Nancy recalls, “but this is where our interests were. And the minute we drove down this street, we fell in love.”
The Roucher house, on an oak-lined private road, was designed in the early 1960s by William Zimmerman. It was a Sarasota School of Architecture classic — elegant, luxurious, and highly livable.
But it wasn’t quite perfect. With the help of designer Anne Folsom Smith, they enlarged and reconfigured the home to make it a haven for entertaining and family visits. And a recent redesign by Wilson Styles pared it down to an understated simplicity, with the subtle, high-end materials and pieces of furniture that have become his trademark.
The home’s star power is most evident in the living room. It has a high vaulted ceiling of bleached cypress, with the walls covered in neutral grey linen. Two matching Knoll sofas, in an eye-popping red, face each other across a coffee table Styles designed especially for the house. Looking down on the seating area is the Syd Solomon painting, an anniversary present from Jerry to Nancy. Annie Solomon, the painter’s widow, helped them pick it out.
The addition of a two-story wing helped make the house more flexible for visiting children — two daughters, Barbara of St. Louis and Roslyn, who lives in Israel — and five grandchildren. An outdoor living area next to the pool offers plenty of shade, while upstairs is an elaborate master suite with a balcony overlooking the view. There are two master baths, both exceptionally large. Nancy’s is 10 feet by 16 feet and is decorated with custom tiles by ceramicist Elle Leonard.
But for all its features, there is something missing from the house. Jerry died last year after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. If his presence isn’t there, though, his spirit is certainly felt.
Jerry was a Sarasota original who pretty much defined the word “mensch.” He was indeed “someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.” He was involved with a variety of local groups, including the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee and Season of Sculpture, and he served as a docent at the Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg. But his pride and joy was the Jazz Club, which he ran for 10 years during its glory days.
Though Jerry played the clarinet and came from a musical family — his father, in his youth, played with a circus band — his true passion was the exalted enthusiasm he lavished on the American-born art form. He loved everything about it — the music, the people, the excitement of putting performances and festivals together.
Nancy is in the process of clearing out Jerry’s office, tucked away behind the living room. It’s full of pictures and mementos of his Jazz Club adventures, but what stands out the most is an old photograph. It was taken the night Jerry’s father took him to Chicago to see Louie Armstrong perform. There, backstage after the show, is Jerry at age 13, his father and the great Satchmo.
“It was a seminal moment in Jerry’s life,” Nancy said.
Nancy is busy packing now, deciding what to take, what to sell and what to give away. The home has just been placed on the market and there are a million details to attend to. Outside, seabirds swoop and dive, and an occasional boat passes. Inside it’s cool and bright and quiet, a peaceful home full of memories of lives well lived, good times, and — if you listen carefully — just the faintest echo of jazz.
842 Mangrove Point Road is priced at $2,975,000. For more information, call Joan Koplin of Premier Sotheby’s at 315-3221.