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Natural-born leader
Profile: St. Paul activist brings neighbors together for the good of the planet
Nancy Hone. Photograph by Courtney Conk.
Nancy Hone. Photograph by Courtney Conk.
"The planet is only ours to rent, just like our bodies. We need to take care of both and I feel as if I can help lead the way." ­
- Nancy Hone

by Pam Taylor


When Nancy Hone was 16 years old, her speech teacher asked the class a question that changed her life. The shy teenager shocked even herself as she shot her hand high in the air after being asked who would one day be famous. Only two students raised their hands and she couldn't believe she had the confidence to be one of them.

Surprising her even more was her teacher's response. "He spent 20 minutes shaming us," Hone said. "He asked us who we thought we were telling everyone that we were going to be famous. Instead of shying away from that moment, I got angry and I wanted to prove him wrong."

Forty-three years later, Hone isn't exactly famous, though she's done things that have attracted attention from mayors, city council members and neighbors. But her ego is firmly in check.

"I'm assertive and outgoing but not egotistical," she said. "I'm comfortable in my own skin and I've been very humbly given an opportunity to make some important changes for our planet. What can I say? I'm an Aries."

And luckily for her St. Paul neighborhood, those important changes began when Hone read a newspaper article outlining plans for a garbage burner to be built five blocks from her home to fuel the paper-making process of Rock-Tenn, a recycling company headquartered in Atlanta.

"It wasn't just about my neighborhood. It was about our city and our planet," Hone said. "I got the neighbors to start talking but no one knew what to do to make a difference. That's when I just jumped in with both feet."

And when she landed, it was as founder of Neighbors Against the Burner, a community action group determined to stop construction of these incinerators in their neighborhood, as well as similar areas across the metro. "Our mission is to stop the production of incinerators that cause pollution and global warming," Hone said. "People tend to believe that if the garbage is out of sight, then it's out of mind. I don't like that."

That same sentiment is one of the reasons why, after years of experience in nursing, she became a traditional naturopath. "People think that if they treat symptoms of illness then the illness is gone and they must be OK. Again, I don't like that," she said.

Natural approach
After going to school to become a nurse and earning a master's degree in teaching, Hone traded it all 29 years ago to become a naturopath. "There are so many chemicals in our food, our water and our air-there is only so much our body can take," she said. "We have to start listening closer to what our bodies need.

"I want to help as many people as I can with their health naturally," Hone said. "Being a healer is an honor and a privilege. My goal is helping people to help other people and then together we can help the planet."

Naturopaths see patients who suffer from everything ranging from earaches and headaches to men's and women's health issues. "I wanted to be a nurse to help people but felt as if there were too many restrictions," Hone said. "So I left nursing to become who I am today."

And who she is today is a woman who cares about health, her neighborhood, her city and her planet and who isn't afraid to talk about it. "I walk the talk that I've used my entire life," she said.

'Did you turn the lights off?'
Growing up in South Dakota with parents who survived the Depression, Hone learned about conservation early on. "Mom and Dad had to be very careful when they were young to not waste anything-water, electricity," she said. "I remember my dad was always asking us if we turned off the lights."

Hone was an inquisitive child and, she said, constantly wondering "how come?" To continue learning how she could make things better, she moved from South Dakota to Minnesota in 1971 to "seek my fame and fortune in the Twin Cities."

Realizing early on that her interest in health and the human body transferred easily to an interest in our environment, Hone and her husband installed their first home solar system in 1999, which provided 55 percent of their electricity. She followed that up with a solar system for their hot-water heater just two years ago.

Hone truly hopes everyone will do what they can to help save our earth. "The planet is only ours to rent, just like our bodies," she said. "We need to take care of both and I feel as if I can help lead the way."

When Hone and her husband were married, they immediately began saving for their children's college fund. Now they have a different set of priorities. "We were very careful and we saved a lot of money for tuition if we ever needed it," she said. "But we never had children so we decided to use the money to make our planet a better place."

Unfortunately, money tends to be a roadblock for some when trying to change the world. "People nowadays are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet," Hone said. "People are so busy with so many commitments that they simply don't have the time or the money to support their cause."

Growing up proud
The daughter of a Marine fighter pilot, Hone spent much of her time growing up waving the American flag. "My dad fought for our freedom," she recalled. "He taught me from an early age that we have the right to speak up. We have the ability to speak up. He showed me by example that those who show up are the ones who win. It is my duty to speak up when I see a wrong happening."

Another reason she continues to speak up is her protective side. "Don't mess with me or my family," she said. "It's our duty and our opportunity to stand up for what is right. We all have a moral responsibility to protect the planet and despite what we might hear, it's not too late."

All this passion for getting things done wasn't how Hone would describe herself as a child. "People today are surprised to hear that I was shy as a kid," she said. "Now I can stand up in front of the mayor and tell him he's wrong."

She credits this hidden strength to her father who used to ask her what was the worst that could happen if she speaks her mind. "He taught me that people can say one of two things-yes or no," she added. "I guess I never realized how much of an effect my sweet parents had on me until lately. [They] taught me everything."

The good fight
After finding ways to get friends and family to rally around causes, including the fight against building the garbage burner in her neighborhood, Hone says all that's necessary to get started is a need. "Once you have a belief you feel strongly about you have to get neighbors talking, build support and then just do it," she said. "The first step is believing in yourself.

"You can't look back with any regrets because it all happens for a reason," she said. "And I'm at a place now where I feel really good about where I am and what I'm supposed to be doing."


FFI:
What: A public meeting about the health hazards of incineration, sponsored by Neighbors Against the Burner, features Dr. Ian Greaves, University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health
When: July 22, 7-9 p.m.
Where: Jewish Community Center, 1375 St. Paul Ave., St. Paul, MN
www.neighborsagainsttheburner.org


The profile appears in every issue of the Minnesota Women's Press. It reflects our founding principle and guiding philosophy that every woman has a story. Readers are welcome to submit suggestions for profile subjects. Email your ideas to editor@womenspress.com.



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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Article comment by: Alan Muller

A nice profile of an exceptional person.

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2008
Article comment by: Jerri Johnson

Thanks for your profile of Nancy Hone. Nancy has been a community leader in a lot of ways. Her constant thirst for knowledge about healing causes many others in the natural health community to consult her for advice. In addition, she helped to spearhead passage of creative legislation to ensure the right of citizens to access the healing services of their choice, and the right of practitioners of holistic healing to practice.

Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2008
Article comment by: Nancy Hokkanen

re: "Natural born leader" by Pam Taylor Thank you for featuring Nancy Hone, the St. Paul activist. She has inspired me with her intellect and spirit, and educated me by sharing her knowledge of natural health and the environment. I hope readers feel similarly inspired to use their personal power toward positive planetary change.

Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Article comment by: Don Arnosti

Thanks for the great profile of Nancy Hohn. Though I know her, your profile told me a lot more about her life and motivation. What an inspiration!

Posted: Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Article comment by: julie mellum

This was a superlative article about Nancy Hone. She is a dynamo whose concerns for humanity and for the planet deserve to be heard! Thank you for this excellent, well-written article!



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