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Obituary for Nancy Ann (Vallem) Myers
Nancy Ann (Vallem) Myers (two pictures, color) 12/23/1944 – 01/27/2019
Nancy Ann (Vallem) Myers of Brookings, Oregon, passed away on January 27, 2019 following an 11-year battle with interstitial pneumonia (a rare lung disease that is under much research). Nancy spent many weeks over a 7-year period being closely examined and documented by Dr. Raghau at the University of Washington. They were trying to find answers, treatments, and hopefully a cure for this disease as an alternative to having a lung transplant. At the time of her diagnosis, she was given 3-7 years. She lived just shy of another 5 years, totaling 11 years with the disease.
Nancy was born December 23, 1944 in Yakima, WA to Osmond T. and Mary E. (Butt) Vallem, the 6th of 7 children, and grew up there. The family worked hard picking fruit in the orchards and doing other odd jobs, trying to feed a family of 9 through the cold, frozen winters of Central Washington.
On November 25, 1960, Nancy married Lee D. Myers Sr. at Vancouver, WA. They had a daughter Vicky Bee Myers in 1962 and a son Lee D. Myers Jr., aka “Jeep” in 1963. When the children were small, Nancy was a homemaker and cleaned homes for others. Lee was a commercial fisherman on a small, 20’ boat in and around the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He was also a fishing guide during the winter months in the Olympic Peninsula area.
When the children were old enough and not in school, they all went fishing together on the boats. Life on the boat was busy, throwing crab pots, gaffing, catching and processing salmon, and oh yes, washing your hair with “Joy” soap! Over time, Lee and Nancy purchased three larger boats, naming all of them “Lee Nan”. These were later sold, and the Myers purchased the “Navaro” in the early 1970’s, fishing up and down the Pacific Coast.
The Myers moved to Brookings in 1979, fishing for salmon and tuna, and eventually crabbing in the early 1980’s. With optimum fishing seasons waning and more government control, a means to pay the bills was still needed, so Nancy and Lee went to work perfecting old family recipes. They produced a moist, not-too-salty smoked Chinook salmon, a cold-smoked Chinook lox, and a unique and difficult-to-do smoked salmon jerky, all from the fish they caught off their own boat. They took their heavily scrutinized fresh fish, crab and smoked fish creations on the road to Medford, selling them out of the cooler on the tailgate of a 1977 Ford truck.
Discovering a market for quality fresh seafood, the family established a route from Grants Pass to Medford and Eugene with a lot of mini-markets and pubs in between. Realizing they had a viable business opportunity underway, Lee and Nancy purchased their location on Highway 101, south of Harbor, Oregon.
While living in the attic of a pole barn, they built it into a fresh and smoked fish retail store and processing room (all in one), with the hand-crafted smokehouse just outside. Though the smoked fish and top-quality fresh fish drew many customers, Nancy was best known for the clam chowder and sandwich melts she created. Paired with her winning smile and bubbly personality, it was a prize-winning combination.
Their desire to make their customers happy ultimately lead the Myers family into the next phase of custom-smoking sport and commercially caught fish. Needing more space, they built another processing shop for filleting fish, cooking crab, canning and vacuum-packing their wares and making other items to sell in the retail shop. The smoked salmon pate was processed with the whole family joining in. Even the grandchildren were encouraged to help, along with out-of-town family members who happened by to visit. Nancy made all their own cocktail sauces, mustards, and her ever-famous blackberry jam, made from all locally picked blackberries.
Lee and Nancy took their products to wholesale food shows as well as the fund-raising Ascot Days at the historical Bay Meadows track in San Francisco, California. Their name and reputation for quality gourmet foods became well-known throughout the Pacific Northwest. Nancy got to work creating beautiful gift packs for sale internationally, using her self-taught computer skills, and delving into the world of the internet. As if this wasn’t enough, in 1989, Nancy decided more room was needed for a full-blown restaurant, using the space in front of the original building. It was a huge success, keeping the locals and many tourists from around the world (some famous) well fed for many years with fine cuisine served in a casual atmosphere. The “Great American Smokehouse” was featured on the “Today” television show in 2003.
Nancy never tired of fishing on the Chetco and Rogue rivers: surf fishing, bank fishing, drift boats; it didn’t really matter! Nancy won the Slammin’ Salmon Derby in Brookings one year with a 64-pound fish! She also loved hunting deer and elk most of her married life. She earned a position nationally for the third largest elk hunted and downed by a woman. The trophy elk hung on the dining room wall in the restaurant.
Nancy also loved to travel whenever they could. She and Lee travelled to the Caribbean, to Mexico, and twice to Yellowstone National Park.
Even while running the businesses, Nancy never tired of celebrating birthdays and overwhelming Christmases for everyone she loved. She was active with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren even up until her last days.
Nancy is survived by her husband Lee of Brookings, son “Jeep” and his wife Leah of LaPine, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her daughter Vicky. No public services are planned.