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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Nancy McLellan would agree that there was no one like her. She was friendly and outgoing, and as a Kalamazoo native she was the sort of person everyone seemed to know. Nancy treasured her roles as a wife and mother, but she just might have argued that nothing was better than becoming a grandmother. She had the most welcoming smile and was an amazing conversationalist. Nancy and her family made their most precious memories at their cottage on Grand Traverse Bay where there was plenty of fun to be had. Life will never be the same without Nancy here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy that her loved ones will proudly carry on in her footsteps.
It was great to be an American during the 1920s when innovation was leading the way to things like radios, washing machines, and motion pictures in both color and sound. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great joy in the lives of Loren and Mabel (Trent) Kesler as they were blessed with the birth of the baby girl they named Nancy on June 11, 1928, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was the only child in her family and was raised in the family home on Oakland Drive near Howard Street. Her father owned a restaurant in downtown Kalamazoo while her mother focused her time and attention at home. Although she was an only child, Nancy hung around with her group, "The Buddies" in high school, and the group continued to get together until they were in their seventies.
From the time she was a young girl Nancy was a bustle of activity. Both of her parents enjoyed working out in the garden, and Nancy received her father's green thumb while her mother taught her how to arrange flowers. She also learned to be an excellent cook from her father and how to golf from her mother as she was a talented golfer. Nancy graduated from State High in 1946, attended Western Michigan University for a time and completed a program at Katherine Gibbs Secretarial College in Chicago.
As a young woman Nancy was thrilled to become a mother to her two daughters, Pamela and Barbara, who were just 19 months apart. After her marriage ended, Nancy and her girls lived with her parents who helped Nancy raise her girls for ten years. Life was certainly an adventure for her girls as they had a pet alligator that used to swim in the toilet since they had no tank, and they enjoyed a go-kart and BB gun that Nancy's father got when they were older. There were also plenty of things for the girls to play with in the backyard, and Nancy was very involved in everything her girls did.
Nancy was a busy woman. In addition to being a mother she also worked hard as a plant accountant at Precast Industries with that work often extending into weekends. It was at work that she met Jerry McLellan in 1963. Jerry knew from the start that he had to be nice to her since she wrote his paychecks. One evening after work they joined their precast coworkers at a nearby restaurant where they danced while he was still wearing his heavy work boots.
Over time, Jerry eased his way into Nancy's life, and her girls eventually accepted him as well. After having a long-term relationship, they were married in 1985. As a family they were in for quite an adventure when Jerry bought property on Grand Traverse Bay and they completed the construction of a cottage themselves. They spent most weekends and vacations there for years while they were developing the property. Prior to their cottage up North they had rented a little vacation cabin nearby on Torch Lake. Their Cairn Terrier, "Twiggy", was an important member of their family and part of their adventures as well. Once their cabin was done, they took a sailing class and bought a sailboat that they named "Wind Song" with Traverse City and Elk Rapids being "Home Ports". For a number of years their vacations centered on one-week cruises to Northern Lake Michigan ports such as Charlevoix, Petoskey, and Beaver Island, with one two-week venture up into the North Channel. The cottage was always their family's most sacred place. These were some of their favorite family times.
Throughout her life Nancy maintained an active lifestyle. She loved going to the beach, being outdoors, and playing sports. After the girls got into downhill skiing, she and Jerry later bought skis and learned how to downhill ski on a business trip to Colorado. She and Jerry also played tennis, but it was primarily for the social time with close friends, often played at the Kalamazoo Racquet Club. Nancy played bridge and was a member of various bridge clubs, often two or three at a time. She often won and was known for her determination to do well. Although the bulk of her time was spent at the cottage with her family, for a number of years Nancy and Jerry also spent a winter month in Florida visiting friends. They also went to Finland where Jerry completed a marathon followed by visits to other Scandinavian countries and to Scotland and England. Nancy's 70th birthday was celebrated with a cruise of the Greek Isles. Nancy was an avid football fan and loved cheering for Jerry's alma maters, U of M and Stanford.
When her granddaughter was born, Nancy was filled with joy beyond measure. She loved being a grandmother and doted over all three of her grandchildren. Nancy and Nicole spent a lot of time together during the years that Nicole lived in Kalamazoo. Nancy, who often took out 4 or 5 books at a time from the library, passed her love for reading on to Nicole. They also did cooking and art together and they didn't take any cruises on the sailboat without Nicole.
Nancy's cooking skills were the envy of everyone with fruit pies being just one of the many favorites. With everything going on, Nancy still found time to volunteer including years at the Cancer Discovery Thrift Shop as well as at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Gift Shop.
Truly beautiful on the inside and out, Nancy McLellan was a blessing to all who were near. She could be stubborn at times and didn't shy away from speaking her mind, but she was also very giving and generous toward others. Nancy was a deeply devoted mother who wanted her kids to experience the fun that can be found in the simplest of things. Life wasn't without times of trial for her, but she faced whatever came her way with both grace and strength. Deeply loved, Nancy will be forever missed.
Nancy McLellan, of Kalamazoo, passed away February 21, 2018. Nancy's family includes her husband, Jerry McLellan; 2 daughters, Pamela Thomas and Barbara (Daniel) Kesler; 2 grandsons, Shane (Riley) Thomas and Ryan (Tiara) Thomas; granddaughter, Nicole Kesler; and great-granddaughter, Lauren Kesler. Visit with Nancy's family and friends while sharing food, drinks, and stories on Wednesday from 4:00 - 7:00 p.m. at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home; 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49009. Please visit Nancy's personal memory page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Friendship Village; 1400 N. Drake Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49006 or to Alzheimer's Association; Kalamazoo; 350 E. Michigan Avenue, #20; Kalamazoo, MI 49007.