SEQUIM — While he’s helped serve millions of empty stomachs on staples of pancakes and omelets, Billy Nagler, 67, also will be remembered by family and friends for touching just as many lives through his generosity and kindness.
The co-owner of the Sequim Oak Table Cafe, 292 W. Bell St., died peacefully in his sleep sometime Saturday night while visiting family in Bellingham, family members said.
“It’s going to leave a big hole,” said Tom Baermann, owner of Pacific Office Equipment and Nagler’s best friend. “There’s not a lot of people like him in Sequim,” he said.
Family and friends will host a celebration of life for Nagler at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Sequim unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula at 400 W. Fir St.
The public is invited to attend and tell stories of Nagler’s life.
Baermann said he met Nagler while serving on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Clubs as they worked together to build a facility for Sequim.
Baermann said Nagler significantly helped children throughout his life.
“Him and Mary [Nagler’s wife] and the Oak Table were always in support of kids’ programs,” he said.
Mary Budke, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, said Nagler is considered one of the founding fathers of the Sequim club’s current building and he and Mary Nagler have been lifetime supporters.
“They believed this fantastic facility could be built and supported in Sequim, and then he backed it up both with his contributions monetary-wise and with his actions,” Budke said.
“We’re going to really miss him. It’s going to be a different town without Billy Nagler in it.”
Nagler’s support ranged from special honors for club members to prizes for the clubs’ fundraisers.
Janet Gray, the clubs’ resource development director, said since 2000, the Naglers have given in excess of $30,000 in prizes and the club raised at leased $80,000 in donations.
“That speaks to how highly desired his business is here,” Gray said.
In a previous 2011 interview celebrating the Oak Table’s 30th anniversary, Nagler said he intended to become a carpenter but opted to follow his dad’s footsteps who owned a Dog n Suds drive-in and a pancake house in Chicago.
The Naglers moved to Sequim in 1981 and remodeled a home on the corner of Bell Street and Third Avenue to eventually become the Oak Table Cafe. It opened a few days before Thanksgiving with 55 seats. In the 1990s it was remodeled to increase capacity to 121 seats.
Billy and Mary were married for 46 years and had three children and seven grandchildren.
During the past three weeks, Billy had been traveling to see his family, said Ross McCurdy, Nagler’s son-in-law.
“He was larger than life and lovely,” McCurdy said. “He was generous with his time and energy. For the last 15 years he was known highly as a grandpa. He was the epitome of what you’d want in someone being a grandpa.”
The Naglers’ three children all graduated from Sequim High School and now own their own restaurants as they follow in the footsteps of their parents.
McCurdy’s wife Nikki was the first Nagler child to open a restaurant, Oak Table Cafe in Kingston, 10 years ago before relocating to Silverdale.
Nagler’s son Kory Nagler and his wife Rachel opened The Maple County Cafe in Walla Walla in 2011 followed by Casey Nagler and his wife Taria opening The Birch Door Cafe in Bellingham two years ago.
McCurdy said all of Nagler’s family sought him out for advice.
“He was the most knowledgeable and everyone called him to ask about fixing an oven or balancing a checkbook or building a tree fort,” he said.
Nagler remained active at his restaurant through the end of his life often working seven days a week and helped in many facets.
No changes are anticipated for the Sequim restaurant, family members say.
“He didn’t focus on profits and logistics but love and positivity and taking care of people,” McCurdy said. “He was one of the more philanthropic people in the city.”
Through their decades as friends, Baermann remembers Nagler as “a kind and gentle soul.”
“Billy was one of those unique, amazing human beings,” he said.
“He wanted equal rights for everyone and he was always in favor of the underdog. He also never wanted anyone to feel out of place.
“He loved to hug.”
Nagler is survived by his mother Ann Nagler, wife Mary Nagler, daughter Nikki McCurdy (Ross McCurdy), son Kory Nagler (Rachel Nagler), son Casey Nagler (Taria Nagler), his grandchildren Mira, Stella, Sasha, Nola, Neve, Norah and Crosby, and his sisters Gloria and Diane Nagler.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].