Nancy Davison Booth


Nancy Davison Booth, a beloved mother, wife, teacher, grandmother and mother-in-law who could manage a classroom or a lake resort, or drop those jobs in a second in order to make sugar cookies with her children, died on the evening of July 5, surrounded by family. She was 86.

Nancy met the love of her life, William Booth, when they were both 13, and they spent a lifetime supporting each other as parents, travelers and hosts. Through more than 60 years of marriage, people came to Nancy’s and Bill’s home to be themselves, to find themselves, or to become themselves. Those who met her who had not been one of her students told her they wish they had been.

“Everyone else came first, in little things and in huge things,” as one of Nancy’s children said.

Nancy Joyce Davison was born in Belding, Michigan, on Jan. 20, 1935. Nancy attended Muskegon Community College, in their home town on the western shore of Lake Michigan, and then Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. When Bill graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, they immediately left for a fellowship in Bristol, England.

Nancy and Bill took turns putting dents in a VW Beetle navigating the narrow lanes of villages in Britain, Germany and France. They moved to California on return from European adventures, and decided that graduate school and very little money living in Berkeley were no reason not to have twins. Laura and Greg arrived in 1959, and Steve, Ann and Michael soon after.

Nancy signed on to additional chaos in 1973, driving an overstuffed station wagon to move in five children from California to take on a small family resort in Minnesota.

Nancy played the piano, beautifully. To have talked with Nancy, sat down at her table for a meal, and then listened to her play Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours”, and to have heard the loons calling through the window screen in the silence afterwards, that was good fortune.

In her forties, Nancy switched careers entirely, becoming a second grade teacher at Laporte Elementary. During these years, Nancy also took in Bill’s sister, Nancy, to make her later years joyful, and her mother, Edna.

To her grandchildren in the next generation, Grandma Nan was simply “the best grandma.”

While making a happy mess with her grandchildren, Nancy also kept thinking of new generations of children in Northern Minnesota. She was a co-founder and early organizer of the Laporte Education Endowment Fund.

Nancy and Bill retired from the family resort business in 2012 and moved to another lakeside in Bemidji.

Nancy is survived by Bill, their children Laura Kempnich (Rick), Greg (Vickie Kettlewell), Steve (Kristi), Ann Osmonson (Bryan), Michael (Pam Rotberg), and grandchildren Michael Kempnich (Annie Testin), William Kempnich, Erin and Jackson Booth, Amber and Erik Osmonson, and Maya, Madeline, Quinn, and Hayden Booth. Nancy’s mother, Edna, father Voigt, and sister, Mary Sery, passed away earlier. A private service was held. More about Nancy’s life can be found at The family suggests that any memorials in her honor be sent to the Laporte Education Endowment Fund, in care of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, 201 3rd Street NW, Bemidji, MN 56601.

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