At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
American Legion Northeastern Post #459
658 Michigan St. NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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Life Story / Obituary
Loving, kind, and adventurous, Nancy L. Connell lived a life rich in family and service to others. With a passion for people and a heart that knew no bounds, Nancy easily gave to others. Her easy going and gregarious nature, coupled with her outspoken ways afforded much comfort for those who were blessed to know her best. A devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and friend, Nancy loved wholeheartedly and inspired others to do so as well. Though her time with us was much too short, Nancy’s legacy will live on in the hearts and lives of those she treasured most.
1955 proved a year of vibrant growth with consumerism taking off in previously unimaginable ways. With the sale of nearly 7.9 million cars, for the first time in history, seven out of ten families in the US owned an automobile, and new laws were created to require seat belts to be installed on all new cars. This was the year Ray Kroc built the first McDonald’s, and TV dinners appeared including the first fish fingers. Cans of Coca-Cola, Lego, Velcro, and The Mickey Mouse Club all made their debuts during this prosperous year, while Rock and Roll music continued to grow in popularity with more idols including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and The Platters. In Detroit, Michigan this time of hope and plenty grew especially bright as Alan Richard and Shirley Louise (Hildebrand) Heavey welcomed their daughter Nancy into their hearts and home on February 28th.
As a child, Nancy grew up the middle of the Heavey’s five children. While Nancy’s father worked as a salesman, her mother ran the home. Because of the nature of their father’s work, Nancy and her older brothers, Rick and John, and her younger sisters, Lois and Pam, learned the art of resiliency as a result of many moves around the state. Eventually, the family settled in Portage, MI.
Nancy attended Portage Central. After graduating from high school with the class of 1973, Nancy attended Davenport College of Business where she earned her associate’s degree. With her degree in hand, she soon landed work as a secretary at Georgia Pacific where she worked for several years. Eventually, she found work as a secretary for the Grand Rapids Public School where she lovingly served the school community until her retirement in 2015
From the moment she played her first game, Nancy was hooked on softball. It was while playing her much-loved sport that fate gifted her with the opportunity to meet the love of her life, James “Wink” Connell. Wink also grew up enjoying the game and coached the team his company sponsored; the same team Nancy played first base for. Despite their teammates' many attempts to set them up, Nancy and Wink didn’t instantly hit it off. Over time, they began to date and while slowly exploring their relationship soon found they had more than softball in common. Nancy was especially endeared by Wink and her young daughter Michelle’s affinity for one another. It was easy to see the depth of his character in the way he loved her daughter. While tucking Michelle in one night, the precocious child he so adored asked if he was going to marry her mother. Wink promptly walked down the stairs, told Nancy what Michelle had asked, and without hesitation said, “Well, do you want to get married?” Despite the lack of romance, Nancy unhesitatingly replied, “yes!”
After marrying on July 23, 1983, the couple began their lives together in Grand Rapids at 131 Mack St. NE. Two years later they moved to Luray St. on Grand Rapids NW side where they lived the rest of their lives. The family quickly grew to include two younger brothers for Michelle; Jim and Michael. Wink owned Kent Novelty Co. in Grand Rapids and was naturally a softie who easily deferred to his more outspoken bride in matters of the home. Together they created a loving family who shared a close bond. Summers were especially wonderful as they spent a great deal of time at the family cottage on Wilkinson Lake in Delton creating wonderful memories swimming, boating, fishing, and sharing each other’s company.
A woman of many interests, Nancy embraced life wholly. She was an avid reader of crime novels and especially enjoyed the works of John Grisham and James Patterson. Listening to classic rock, watching her favorite shows, cheering on her beloved Detroit teams, and preparing her famous prime rib were all sources of pleasure for Nancy. For many years she played in a golf league at Lincoln Country Club, and she was always game to hit other courses with friends. The Children’s Advocacy Center, American Legion Post #459, and the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans all benefited greatly from Nancy’s volunteer efforts.
Without a doubt, Nancy lived to serve her loved ones and did her utmost to provide them with the very best care. Her dedication was most evident in the way she so beautifully tended Wink during his battle with liver cancer. In her loving hands, Wink found deep comfort in even the darkest of times. On February 18th, 2004, Nancy had to say her final goodbyes to her beloved. Though extremely difficult, with Nancy’s lead, the family persevered by leaning into the power of their bond. Sure access to comfort and delight was the gift of her grandchildren. Nancy relished in being a grandmother and treasured visiting with them whenever possible.
Retirement afforded Nancy the opportunity to travel more. She loved exploring new places and spending quality time with the people she most enjoyed. She took many trips including to Vietnam and Costa Rica. It was during her most recent trip with her brother John to Costa Rica that Nancy was in an accident while riding a four-wheeler. Having suffered a closed injury, she was hospitalized for a time there. Upon returning home to Grand Rapids on Saturday, February 7th her family kept vigil at her side until she died Thursday evening, April 12th.
Clearly, Nancy’s unexpected departure has many wishing for a Mulligan. May their hearts be comforted by the faith that Nancy has successfully arrived at Eternity’s 19th Hole where she has been reunited with Wink. May we be additionally comforted in knowing that her bright and beautiful legacy lives on in the smiles of her grandchildren, family celebrations that include her famous meatloaf or pot roast, and the many memories we were blessed to create with her.
Nancy Louise Connell, aged 63, of Grand Rapids, died in the loving comfort of her family, on Thursday, April 12, 2018, at Mercy Health St. Mary’s. She was preceded in death by her husband, James R. “Wink” Connell. She is survived by children: Michelle (John) Allen, Jim (Cecilia) Connell Jr., and Michael (Christine) Connell; grandchildren: Damion Heyman, Kaia Connell, Tobias Medina, Fionna Connell, Amelia Connell; her parents, Alan and Shirley Heavey; her brothers and sisters, Rick Heavey, John Heavey, Lois Louden, Pam (Doug) Phillips; mother-in-law, Louise Connell; many sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, and friends. There will be no funeral service. Relatives and friends may meet her family at Heritage Lifestory Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. On Sunday, April 15, from 3:00 – 6:00 PM. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Children’s Advocacy Center or American Legion Post #459. To read more about Nancy’s life, to sign her guest book and to leave your own memory of her, visit her web page at www.lifestorynet.com