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Town pays tribute to beloved restaurateur

Article Date: 
4 October, 2013 (All day)

There are people who come into this world destined to make a difference to those around them, and when they leave this world there is a clear void.  Steph Nance was one of those people.  
It is ordinary for friends and family to gush about their loved ones after their passing, but what makes someone truly extraordinary is when the entire community speaks up to express their appreciation.
Steph came from a long line of excellent cooks.  Her father, Jay, owned and operated Hopkin’s Cafe and Jay’s Drive–in. In 1968, Steph purchased the drive-in and successfully ran it for 40 years before selling it to her nephew J.R. Hopkin.  
Steph worked another five years at the drive-in after handing off the reins.  She just loved being around people.  
“Steph would get so excited when there was an event in town and the crowds would be big, or when a bus would stop on their way home from a game. We would be moaning our fate and she would be giggling,” recalls Ashlee Harris, who worked at the drive-in for five years. 
To her employees, she was more than a boss.  Former employee and friend Rachael Larson beamed, “Stephanie Nance was my boss, mentor and friend. She outworked all of us and she laughed and told stories while she did it. She taught me how to work hard, how to be a member of a community. She taught me how to chop veggies, pound hamburger, and make a Tangee, but also how to take chances when it counts, how to forgive people, how to love your family unconditionally and how it’s worth it to keep an open heart—even if sometimes it hurts.”
Rachel Woolley recounted her experience with Steph as an “unrealistic introduction to the world of employers.”  She said, “Her crazy laugh could go on and on and was often contagious even when I had no idea what she was laughing at. She was the biggest tease, but seemed to be without critical judgment of others.”  
Joli Johanson worked at the drive-in from 1996 to 2001 and said that even though she hung out with Steph’s grandchildren, she considered Steph to be just as much a friend.  “The time I spent at Steph’s and more specifically with Steph, helped shaped me.  I can proudly say that much of what I have accomplished is, in part, thanks to her.”
Steph would do whatever she could to help others in need and donated to every organization who asked.  “I never saw her turn anyone down,” said Larson.  
Steph would offer extra hours to employees even when she didn’t need the extra help.  
Larson said Steph gave her more hours when she was saving money to go to Europe after high school.  When she lost her college job, Steph allowed her to just work weekends in Morgan so she could keep her apartment.  Steph even sent home soup and salad bar leftovers when Larson was newly married.
“The kitchen door was constantly visited by former employees and family members.  Steph could catch up with visitors and make hamburgers for the whole town at the same time.  I could have worked there the rest of my life because it’s not what you do, but the people you do it with that matter.  She mattered to me,” Larson said adoringly. 
Steph’s friends and family meant everything to her.  Nothing gave her more joy than spending time with people she loved.  She enjoyed making sure others had the opportunity to participate in their activities outside of work.  Harris entered a talent contest in high school.  She thought it would be funny to make a shake as her talent.  Steph loaned Harris one of her shake machines and it was a big hit.  
Harris continued saying, “There was a movie being filmed in town and Robert Uric came to the drive-in for dip cones. All of the workers were gushing over a celebrity while Steph stood there and laughed at us, completely unaffected.”
Harris had the privilege of seeing Steph in the Ogden Temple in her later years.  “It would always bring back great memories of my teenage years and I would tell my husband stories all the way home. He would always joke about how he couldn’t believe she never fired any of us.  I would always tell him she couldn’t, we were family.”
Gracious goodbyes were offered by those who loved her:
“Love ya from my nose to my toes.”-- Joli Johanson
“I hope you finally get to sit down for a minute in heaven…the next dinner is on me!” –Rachael Larson