BLOOMINGTON – Former longtime U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton and his wife, Nancy, were still settling into their new Indiana life away from Washington when she died after being run over by her own car, friends said.
Nancy Hamilton’s car was apparently not in park when it rolled over her as she walked behind it to retrieve a pet from the other side during a trip to a Bloomington veterinarian’s office Saturday. Hamilton, 82, died from head and chest injuries, authorities said.
Charlotte Zietlow, a former president of the Bloomington City Council, said the Hamiltons were becoming involved in the city after moving there from Washington and that she had seen them at a social event in the city last week.
“She was just wonderfully cheerful, a great wife for him, and also led her own life,” Zietlow told The Herald-Times. “... It’s not easy to hold up a family when one person has to give up so much time to do a job. And it’s no ordinary job; it was serving the people of this country.”
Lee Hamilton, a Democrat, represented southern Indiana in Congress for more than 30 years until 1999 and later held other government roles, including vice chairman of the 9/11 commission.
He announced a couple of years ago plans to move to Bloomington full time with a role as director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University after stepping down as president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
The Hamiltons met while students at DePauw University and married during Lee Hamilton’s first year of law school at Indiana University, The Republic of Columbus reported. The couple had three children and five grandchildren.
Friends say Nancy Hamilton was active in the arts and painted landscapes and portraits.
Barbara Garton, the wife of former state Sen. Robert Garton of Columbus, became friends with the Hamiltons before he was first elected to Congress in 1964.
“Lee’s prominence was never a problem for Nancy,” Garton said. “When they moved from Columbus to a Washington suburb in Virginia, she was busy being a mother, a housewife and keeping active with her artistic groups. Everyone who knew Nancy knew she was a quiet, caring, wonderful person.”
Zietlow, who had known the Hamiltons since the 1960s, said they were winding down to a more private life.
“They were beginning to become part of a community in a way they couldn’t really be while (Lee) was so active on a national scene,” Zietlow told The Indianapolis Star.