As I passed through the gates of Westminster Presbyterian Cemetery, located in Mifflintown, I immediately knew I had my work cut out for me. Among the thousands of stones, it was a single stone I was searching for, and I really had no clue where the grave was located beyond knowing it was within the borders of this cemetery. Normally I would have the area narrowed down or knew the location of the grave I was in search of, but this was a spur of the moment trip on the way home from a day exploring the Harrisburg region.
The cemetery, located on a hillside on the eastern side of the Juniata River, is the final resting place of three U.S. congressmen, a U.S. Senator, and a Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. While those men hold an importance to the history of the area, they were not the ones I sought. Instead, the grave of a famous actress had brought me to this cemetery. Knowing it would be nearly impossible to find the grave I sought, I decided to make a pass through the cemetery. I drove slowly, scanning the stones, hoping I would find the grave, but realizing the task at hand was nearly impossible.
Despite not having directions, luck was with me on this trip. I entered through the opening at the end of North Third Street and had only gone a short distance when I noticed the name “Kulp” on a nearby stone. Parking so other vehicles could get past, I walked over to the tombstone and immediately realized this was the one I sought. Resting next to her grandfather and great-grandparents, is the Pennsylvania actress whose most noted role was Miss Jane Hathaway, the loyal, efficient secretary of Milburn Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies. Here, on the hillside overlooking the Juniata River, is the grave of Nancy Kulp.
Born on August 28, 1921 in Harrisburg, Nancy was the only child of Robert a traveling salesman and his wife, Marjorie, a teacher. The family moved to Florida in 1930 where, in 1943, Nancy graduated from Florida State University with a degree in journalism. After graduation, Nancy attended the University of Miami, but dropped out in 1944 to join WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). Lieutenant Junior Grade Kulp received various medals for her service, including the American Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.
Nancy was honorably discharged from WAVES in 1946; in 1951 she headed to Hollywood where she worked as a publicist for MGM. That same year Kulp started her acting career with small roles in movies and television shows, but when she landed a part in The Bob Cummings Show in 1955, Nancy became a household name. At the end of the show’s run in 1959, Nancy would appear again in a number of small roles in various television shows, but when she landed the role of Miss Jane Hathaway, Nancy would forever be remembered. Over the nine seasons of The Beverly Hillbillies, Nancy appeared in 246 episodes
When The Beverly Hillbillies ended in 1971, Nancy continued acting and appeared in a handful of shows and would begin performing on Broadway. In 1984, Nancy ran on the Democratic ticket for the Pennsylvania Ninth Congressional District of U.S. House of Representatives, but lost the seat to incumbent Bud Shuster. After her defeat, she took a position with Juniata College as an Artist in Residence.
In 1990 she was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx and passed on February 3, 1991, at a friend’s home in Palm Springs.
With the sun setting and the sound of crickets filling the cool evening air, I finished paying my respects to Nancy Kulp. I left her resting on that hill overlooking the Juniata River.