Nancy (Nanci) Allison Bell La Roi


EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA – Nancy (Nanci) Allison Bell La Roi, age 80, passed away peacefully on June 13, 2017, at home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Nanci was born on June 27, 1936, in Ishpeming, Michigan, to Virginia Vandeventer Bell and Francis Allison Bell. Nanci’s father and grandfather, on the Bell side, were pillars of the community. A portrait of her grandfather, Judge Frank Allison Bell, still hangs in the local courthouse, and the Ishpeming hospital is named after her father, a local lawyer and vice-president of the Cleveland Cliffs mining company.

Nanci spent much of her early childhood playing with her younger brother, Frank. The two loved to swim, play with their cocker spaniel Mustard, eat blueberries, sing songs, and just run around. Nanci’s older sister Marian (Mimi) went on to live for a time in New York and California; her older brother Joe served in the Navy. Nanci was always proud to have been captain of the Ishpeming High School cheerleading team.

Nanci met George Henri La Roi III, the love of her life, in the cafeteria line at Lake Forest College, Illinois, and there was no looking back. Joined in marriage in 1957, they would have celebrated their 60th anniversary this August. They were always each other’s best friend and truest companion.

Together they raised four children and, at one time, four dogs in Edmonton, Alberta, where long summer days and long winters were full of activity. Nanci also enjoyed spending as much time as possible at their beloved camps on the Dead River Basin in Upper Michigan and at their desert home in Green Valley, Ariz. During George’s university sabbatical years, the family also lived in Sweden, Connecticut, and Oregon.

Nanci always looked for and savored the beauty of small moments – the whirr of a hummingbird’s wings, the glow of “pink time” over the Santa Rita Mountains, the morning mist that hovers above the Dead River Basin, the trill of a hermit thrush in the pines, the changing seasons along the camp road, the bursting sweetness of ripe raspberries, and the piquant zing of freshly picked lemons.

She had a true passion for the outdoors, and enjoyed bird-watch- ing, taking walks, gardening, swimming in the Basin, cross-country skiing, biking, and just listening to the wind in the trees. She also spent many hours in the woods as George’s research assistant.

Family meant everything to Nanci, and nothing set her aglow like being surrounded by family members and relatives. Mealtimes were special, and Nanci always lavished those around the table with her creative and thoughtful cooking. Family celebrations, big and small, were made even better with Nanci’s lemon meringue or blueberry pies. Her wish to put others before herself was well known to her family; she always took the smallest portion for herself and never claimed the last piece if there was anyone else around the table who wanted it.

Nanci was extremely proud of her children and grandchildren. While George is a former professor of botany, ecologist and published scientist, the family also celebrated the liberal and fine arts. All four of their children grew up to be writers, artists or musicians.

She loved being Grammy to her three grandsons, making lemonade together, cooking hotdogs on the beach, going for boat rides, hiking in Madera Canyon, and baking cookies.

For more than a decade, Nanci lived with Parkinson’s Disease and, more recently, cancer. Throughout, her continued and indefatigable focus on the good things in life inspired the awe of those around her. Her personal warmth, lovely smile, and cheerful disposition made a strong impression on everyone she came to know.

Surviving Nanci are husband George Henri La Roi III of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; daughter Heather, of Madison, Wis.; son Nathan, of Edmonton, Alta.; daughter Renee, of Edmonton, Alta.; son Everett (Alison Parry) of Edmonton, Alta.; three grandchildren, Samuel, Callum and Eamon; brother Frank Bell (Nancy), of Ishpeming, Mich., and sister-in-law Rita La Roi Vail (Arthur), of Marion, Mont.

She was preceded in death by her parents, step-sister Marian Copeland Stewart (Herbert), step-brother Joseph Copeland (Vernita), and brother-in-law J. Larry La Roi (Janice).

A private memorial service and celebration of Nanci’s life will be held on June 24, 2017, at the family camp on the Dead River Basin. Richard Graybill of Grace Episcopal Church, Ishpeming, will lead the service.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, or the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.