When Nancy Grace was remodeling her home in Society Hill decades ago, she came up with a remedy for all the plumbing leaks.
"I spent a little time in Bali, and I knew some secrets" of the spirit world, she told an Inquirer reporter in 1998.
"We'd hide an egg here, a little heap of rice there. Hide it in the rafters for the spirits.
"Slowly, slowly," she said, "the house accepted the changes. Eventually the leaks stopped."
On Sunday, Nancy Brewster Grace, 99, the well-traveled fixture of Philadelphia society, died at the Quadrangle in Haverford, where she had lived for the last 10 years.
Men of power and influence were attracted to her.
In 1933, she married Charles Brown Grace, son of the chairman of Bethlehem Steel. Their son Charles Jr. said Edmund Bacon, the city planner who made Society Hill a neighborhood of national significance, was "the great friend of her final years."
But it took her a while to stand on her own.
For 15 years in the 1940s and 1950s, the Graces rented a home on Ardrossan, the Radnor estate of Hope Montgomery Scott, celebrated in the film The Philadelphia Story.
"Riding with Hope Scott," and being a part of that world, her son said, "was a big part of the early years."
After the 1955 divorce, he said, she blossomed.
"She was released from Philadelphia society as it was," he said, "traveled the world wide, and became very involved with the art scene in Philadelphia."
While she was a contributing editor for Vogue, Earrings for Celia, her children's book set in Mexico, was published by Random House in 1963.
It was the first of three books, her son said. Two were published privately.
At her death, he said, she was working on a fourth - a memoir, Paris and Back.
"She wrote a great deal for Town & Country, travel articles that would include Afghanistan, Borneo, Sri Lanka, other places," he said.
Michael Pakenham, associate editor at The Inquirer from 1972 to 1984, recalled her as "one of the most remarkable people I've ever known."
"Her curiosity was indomitable," Pakenham said. "She had an immense sense of generosity and kindness, but a very skeptical mind."
Before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Pakenham recalled, "she spent months in Kabul. . . . She would fall in love with obscure places."
Her son Charles said that in Kabul, "she was a very good friend of the French ambassador," and thus able "to travel throughout the country and to meet lots of interesting people."
In Borneo, he said, she lived in a native community.
A 1964 Inquirer article reported that while in Japan for four months, visiting her son Brewster, an official with the American Friends Service committee, she lived in a Buddhist monastery.
In Sri Lanka, her way was paved by the U.S. ambassador, Robert Strauz-Hupé, whom she had met when he was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
It was during visits to the former Ceylon, her son Charles said, that "she became close to Arthur C. Clarke, the author of 2001: A Space Odyssey."
Out of those visits came her second book, the privately published Meineke, about an elephant, though her son said "everything was autobiographical."
Even her pet parrot.
A 1970 Inquirer society-page item noted that during a tour of her Society Hill home to benefit a hospital, visitors marveled at her uncaged parrot flying about and speaking its only language, Mexican Spanish.
In 1997, her final book, Letitia, was a children's book about that parrot.
Born in Manila while her father, an Army colonel, was stationed there, she grew up in Bethlehem, Pa., and attended Sarah Lawrence College.
Besides sons Charles Jr. and Brewster, she is survived by sons Eugene 3d and Michael, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. Her former husband died in 1968.
The funeral will be at 3 p.m. Friday at Haverford Friends Meeting, 855 Buck Lane, Haverford.