While he’s helped serve millions of empty stomachs on staples of pancakes and omelets, Billy Nagler, 67, will also 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., passed away in his sleep peacefully sometime in the night July 13 while visiting family in Bellingham.
Tom Baermann, owner of Pacific Office Equipment and Nagler’s best friend, said with him gone, “it’s going to leave a big hole.”
“There’s not a lot of people like him in Sequim,” he said.
Family and friends host a Celebration of Life for Nagler at 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 19 at the Sequim Boys & Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St. with the public invited.
Baermann said he met Nagler while serving on the board of directors for the Boys & Girls Club working 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, and in the 1990s it was remodeled to increase capacity to 121 seats.
Billy and Mary were married for 46 years, had three children and seven grandchildren.
Over the last 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 Nagler’s three children all graduated from Sequim High School and now own their own restaurants following in the footsteps of their parents.
McCurdy’s wife Nikki was the first Nagler child to open a restaurant with Oak Table Cafe in Kingston 10 years ago before relocating to Silverdale.
Nagler’s son Kory Nagler and his wife Rachel opened Maple Counter 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.
Going forward, 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.”