Nancy A. Tansey, 1929-2013: Local caterer competed in auto races


Nancy A. Tansey, who with stamina and creativity catered affairs for a handful or parties for hundreds, died Monday in the Defiance Area Inpatient Hospice Center of Community Health Professionals. She was 84.

She was in failing health, with circulation, lung and other problems, her daughter Kathy said. She lived most recently in Napoleon with her son Patrick.

From the 1960s into the 1980s, Mrs. Tansey and her husband, Patrick, owned and ran Shasteen’s Catering. The business started as a carryout on Monroe Street, which they’d taken over from Charles Shasteen, who was known for his homemade potato chips, caramel corn, and peanut brittle. Mr. Tansey continued to make the Shasteen specialties. Mrs. Tansey liked to cook, and the couple sold her cheese balls and other party foods from a deli case in the store.

A customer picking up a party tray one day asked Mrs. Tansey if she would be interested in preparing the food for her daughter’s wedding. Mrs. Tansey agreed — and only asked as the woman was leaving, “How many do you expect?” Mrs. Tansey recalled to The Blade in 1979.

The answer: 850 to 1,000. All at once, the Tanseys were in the catering business. Several years later, they opened the Embers Ballroom, a venue on Telegraph Road in Michigan. The building was home to the catering business, but it also was a venue where clients could hold their parties, receptions, reunions, luncheons, dinners.

A corporate event held annually at the Toledo Sports Arena drew 1,000.

“She was a woman of iron,” her daughter said. “How she planned for meals like that, I don’t know. She had charts and notes and kept track of everything she would buy and order. She never had any formal training of any sort. It was amazing.”

A staple of showers Mrs. Tansey catered was ribbon loaf: layers of bread alternating with layers of ham salad, egg salad, and the like, sliced and served.

“It would look like a rainbow,” her daughter. Wedding menus included tomato pudding.

Her husband tended bar and took care of building maintenance. She hired women to work at the catered events, and the couple’s six children and the children’s friends would pitch in.

And then on Sunday afternoons, the Tanseys threw open the doors to the Embers Ballroom and served family-style dinners — Mrs. Tansey’s chicken, which was first fried then baked, plus beef and ham. Slaw or beets or corn might accompany mashed potatoes. Dessert might be potato-chip cookies.

“She loved to work with people and prepare these things for people and please people,” her daughter said.

In the late 1980s, the Tanseys became resident managers of an apartment complex in Maumee. She worked in the kitchen at some of the area’s best-known restaurants, including the Willows and Northwood Villa. The couple later managed a mobile home court in Napoleon.

“Again, they worked together,” their daughter said. “Both my parents had a good sense of humor, and they really loved each other. Fifty-four years together speaks volumes. It was teamwork.”

She only retired after her husband’s death. She still cooked, and she made counted cross-stitch sweatshirts as gifts.

“My mom never would have turned on a TV set for anything,” her daughter said. “She was a hands-on busy person for other people.”

She was born Feb. 2, 1929, to Marguerite and George Nemire. She grew up in West Toledo and attended DeVilbiss High School, where she met her husband.

Not long after high school, she and her husband became stock car drivers. The couple raced at tracks across northwest Ohio. Her nickname was Dagmar in competitions among women drivers called “Powder Puff Derbies.” Her brother, Kenny, a well-known driver of the time, was killed in a race in 1957. Injuries from a crash while she was en route to watch a race ended her participation in the sport.

“She was an adventuresome woman,” her daughter said. Toledo Speedway in June, 2011, honored her brother and the entire racing family. She was present.

“It was exciting. She was so proud,” her daughter said.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, she was secretary for her husband's business, Tansey Construction.

She and her husband married March 21, 1946. He died Jan. 1, 2001.

Surviving are sons, Michael and Patrick Tansey; daughters, Kathleen McCartney, Colleen Snyder, and Gloria Jones; 11 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 3 p.m. today in the Sujkowski Funeal Home of Rossford, where family and friends will gather at 1 p.m.

The family suggests tributes to Defiance Area Inpatient Hospice Center of Community Health Professionals, Defiance.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.