Nancy D. Racine, 73, died Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at home, surrounded by the love and joy of her family.
Nancy was born in Jackson, Michigan to Mary and Devlin Tompkins. She and her husband, Pete, married in 1970 and moved to St. Joseph. They were loving and dedicated parents to Stacy and Charley, and foster parents to three infants from birth to the time of their adoption. Nancy loved children and was a Singing Sands Council Girl Scout leader for many years; she served as the Camp Director of an overnight summer camp, sleeping in a tent one summer when she was eight months pregnant!
In 1980, Nancy and Pete opened the Grande Mere Inn in Stevensville and ran it together for 35 years. While Pete ran the front of the house, Nancy was a self-taught chef who worked on the hot hectic cook’s line for decades, ran a successful catering business, did the restaurant’s bookkeeping, and supervised over 40 employees at a time and hundreds over the years, many of whom became family.
In addition to serving their loyal customers, Nancy, Pete and their staff made volunteering and community service a priority. For many years, they cooked and carved turkeys, along with potatoes, stuffing and gravy for Thanksgiving at the Benton Harbor Soup Kitchen. They catered an annual Christmas party at the Juvenile Center. They donated food and catered events for the Curious Kid’s Museum, Krasl Art Center, Lake Michigan College and Sarett Nature Center. After volunteering at the Readiness Center, Nancy created an annual fundraiser that raised over $800,000 in 22 years. In 2015, Grande Mere Inn received the Governor’s Service Corporate Community Leader Award and in 2017, Nancy was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow Community Leader by the St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club.
Nancy had many passions in life. Even after a full week of cooking at the restaurant, she loved throwing lavish dinner parties and preparing simple meals for her friends and family on her days off. She was an incredible “Nonna” to her six grandchildren, and was grateful to see all six graduate from high school, and a few from college as well. When she put out the word for “dinner at Nonna’s”, nearby family members would gather on her porch or around her table. She loved biking and at one point set an annual goal of 1,000 miles/year, a goal she met for over 20 years straight. She loved walking on the beaches and swimming in the waters of Lake Michigan and the Caribbean, kayaking the lakes of Grand Mere State Park, and doing yoga and strength routines at home. She loved seeing plays and musicals, exploring art museums, and reading a good book while sitting on her porch surrounded by the birds visiting her feeders. She travelled to Europe several times with Pete, Stacy, Charley, her sisters and friends, and loved to travel throughout the United States and to a special getaway with Pete in the Caribbean every winter.
For over six years, Nancy defied the odds by living with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. She maintained a positive attitude and good quality of life despite hundreds of days of inpatient and outpatient Cancer Center visits, labs, “chemo,” and transfusions. In her final days, Nancy met with family and friends. She told them she knew she would be missed, but that it brought her peace to know that she is a part of every one of us. She reassured all of us “My body is worn out, but my spirit is ready to soar.”
Nancy is survived by her daughter Stacy (John) Lynch of Milwaukee, WI and her son Charles (Tricia) Racine of Stevensville, MI; grandchildren Raci & Henry Lynch, and Harleigh, Hannah, Maxwell, and Benjamin Racine; sisters Sue (Bob) Kingsley of Fort Myers, FL, Chris (Tom) Williams of Kalamazoo, MI, and brother Mike (Lynn) Tompkins of Camas, WA. Per Nancy’s wishes, cremation has taken place.
Memories and condolences may be left at www.starks-menchinger.com. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Readiness Center at http://www.readinesscenterinc.org/. Arrangements have been entrusted to Starks & Menchinger Chapel & Cremation Services.
Posted On: Friday, October 2, 2020 3:47 PM