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1944 Nancy 2023

Nancy Noelle Epanchin

April 16, 1944 — March 15, 2023

Nancy Noelle Epanchin, née Hensvik, passed away on March 15, 2023. Though she would not characterize herself this way, Nancy was nothing short of remarkable and she will be missed terribly by those who had the good fortune of knowing her. An amazing wife and friend, a fabulous mother, and an extraordinary grandmother, she was a woman dedicated to serving others, advocating for them, and experiencing all she could in this world.


Nancy grew up on a dairy farm, built by her Norwegian immigrant grandfather in Elbow Lake Minnesota. She started her education in a one room school house and graduated with a BS in nursing with summa cum laude honors from Saint Olaf in 1966. She spent her college summers serving patients and providing nursing services to Minnesota’s Mexican-immigrant agricultural workers and interned in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. After graduating she spent a year in a post-surgical hospital ward at Yale in New Haven, Connecticut, where she lived with college friends.


In 1967 she moved to San Francisco, California where she worked on-call at several hospitals before becoming a visiting nurse in the Haight Ashbury district. It was there that she met her future husband, Nik Epanchin. Early in their budding romance, Nancy’s Lutheran parents came to meet and vet Nik, and they concluded that since their older daughter married a Catholic, they could approve of Nancy’s engagement to a Russian-American. In November 1968, they were married in Elbow Lake and left for a six month honeymoon in South America.


After they returned, Nancy worked as a nurse and teacher in Chicago and San Francisco before moving overseas with Nik to Paris, then to South Africa, and back to Paris where her first child, Tatiana, was born. Shortly thereafter, they moved back to California and settled in San Rafael, where their son, Peter, was born. The family stayed in San Rafael for about ten years and Nancy volunteered at her children’s schools, served as a charge nurse at several convalescent hospitals and nurtured her many hobbies such as cooking, hiking, sewing, church activities, being with friends, taking classes, gardening, and community service.


In the 1980s Nancy and Nik moved their family to equatorial Africa where Nik took a job in Gabon. This three year stint gave Nancy, Nik, and their kids the opportunity to travel throughout both Europe and Africa. Nancy’s travels and curiosity about the world continued for many more decades; she and Nik lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she traveled with a group of fellow nurses to trek in Nepal’s Himalaya Mountains, and took countless other trips around the world.


In 2004, several years after they both had retired from work, Nancy and Nik moved to the small, coastal community of Irish Beach in California’s remote Mendocino County, a region that had captivated their hearts many years prior. Here, Nancy’s yard was her canvas and she cultivated her love of gardening. She remained active in social justice issues including anti-war movements. The space and time provided by such a community allowed Nancy to be a good friend to many and a wonderful, kind, and engaged grandmother to her four grandkids. Some of Tatiana’s and Peter’s greatest joy came from watching her be grandmother to their children.

2018 marked Nancy and Nik’s 50th wedding anniversary and they made plans for more travel- a 3 month road trip through France and a once in a lifetime trip to Antarctica. However, Nik was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just before the trip to France, which he miraculously survived. Unfortunately, the diagnosis and its aftermath landed Nancy in a deep depression which she was unable to overcome. To be closer to their daughter and to medical services, the couple moved to Kingston in the spring of 2022.


Nancy will be deeply missed by her husband Nik, her two children Tatiana and Peter, and her four grandchildren Nika, Nadia, Colby, and Lara Tatiana. The family requests that In lieu of flowers, donations be made to one of Nancy’s favorite non-profit organizations.


Doctors Without Borders

Lutheran World Relief

Oxfam International

Arrangements are entrusted to Cook Family Funeral Home of Bainbridge Island.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Nancy Noelle Epanchin, please visit our flower store.

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