MILLINOCKET – Nancy Anne Deschaine Pray, “Diz,” 66, passed away Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, after a brief illness. She was born July 7, 1947, in Millinocket, daughter of Norman and Margaret Guy Deschaine.
Nancy graduated from Stearns High School, class of 1965. She was a National Honor Society Student, an outstanding basketball, volleyball and softball player. Her skills as a ball player was evident in the 1950s when a local Little League team tried to get the league to allow her to play Little League baseball in a pre-girls era. She excelled in high school sports and worked for Millinocket’s Recreation Department running a playground and coaching the town’s recreation girls Swabbies softball team. She later served on Millinocket’s Recreation Commission for several years advocating Youth and Adult activities.
Nancy had been awarded an athletic scholarship from the University of Maine to play softball in 1965 but a broken leg in a car accident took away the scholarship so she attended the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kan., (where she became friends with, among others, JoJo White of Celtic’s fame).
After college Nancy held several jobs in Hartford, Conn., including Royal Typewriter, G. Fox, and Pratt & Whitney until she married her high school sweetheart in 1968 while he was in the U.S. Air Force in Austin, Texas, and later Wichita, Kan. Nancy was employed as an account manager and bookkeeper for wholesale liquor distributors in both States.
A consummate athlete, she continued to play sports for years in Woman’s State softball and the local Women’s Volleyball league, and was an avid hunter and fisherman. She could be found most evenings in fishing season casting a fly or two in the West Branch of the Penobscot below Ripogenus. Her mastery of fly fishing and knowledge of the West Branch resulted in a fly, “Nancy’s Prayer,” being named after her. She always enjoyed the change of seasons welcoming new outdoor activities with her friends from kayaking to snowshoeing.
Nancy and her husband operated Pray’s Cottages & County Store, a second generation family business, in Maine’s unorganized territory for four decades catering to outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen, tourists and woods workers. Nancy was the heart of the business fostering long friendships with her clientele and it was not uncommon to receive a stop-by visit at her and her husband’s camp on Caribou Lake from them. The cast of employees over the years who worked for her was long with fond memories as she mentored young women and a few young men into lasting friendships. She cared as much about her employees as she did her business, always willing to help where help was needed.
Nancy served on the Maine State Tourism Commission for 25 years, first appointed by Governor Joe Brennan, then subsequent appointments by Governors McKernan, King, and Baldacci and served as Chair of the Commission for two terms.
Nancy was a Young Democrat in high school in the Ed Muskie/Ken Curtis era and got her husband involved into politics as well as others and remained involved in Democratic political campaigns. She was a notary public for a number of years.
She enjoyed traveling, having been to Australia, Mexico, Germany, France, Venezuela, Canada, a number of Caribbean Island and to a number of States with her husband and or friends, rather it was a jaunt to return a car across country or trips to Hawaii. Nancy was ready and willing to travel.
Nancy is survived by her husband of 45 years, Charles Pray; her two sons of whom she was so proud, Damon Pray of Woodbridge, Va., and Jason Pray of Arlington, Va.; two sisters, Joanne Pulkinen of San Antonio, and Norma Cesare of Millinocket; a brother, Lawrence Deschaine of Spokane, Wash.; and several nieces and nephews who knew her as the “Great” aunt Nancy.” She leaves behind a great number of friends, far and wide and too many to list all, cousins, in-laws, and her constant companion, her beloved dog, Rip.
Friends are invited to visit with the family 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Lamson Funeral Home, 11 Tamarack St., Millinocket. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at Christ the Divine Mercy Parish at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, 19 Colby St., Millinocket, with the Rev. Joel Cyr, pastor, preside. Spring interment will be at the Millinocket Cemetery. Gifts in memory of Nancy may be sent to the Katahdin Area Support Group, P.O. Box 374, Millinocket, ME 04462. Messages of condolence may be expressed at www.lamsonfh.com.