Debra's Story

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On Monday, January 29, 2018, the world lost a special woman, mother, artist, sister, aunt and friend. After a long battle with ovarian cancer Debra Kay Sanborn (Nickel), 64, of Traverse City, passed quietly surrounded by love, with family at her side, at Munson Hospice House.
Debi grew up in Flushing, MI. Her large, extended family was the core of her life. Holidays were always filled with cooking, love, art and drama. Debi was the ultimate PTA mom and Girl Scout leader. She never missed a game or one of her children's events. She introduced creativity into every project. A woman of great style, shopping was one of her many passions. Known for her collection of unique eye glassesred, blue and thick-rimmed were always her signature. A strong advocate for the arts, Debi worked for many years at the Greater Flints Art Council. She taught art at Valley school, and campaigned to ensure that the arts were never lost for the inner city schools of Flint. After moving to Traverse City in 2000 Debi opened Peninsula Studio on Union Street. It was her greatest accomplishment. A working studio and retail space (debrasanbornart.com), Debi had clients from all over the world. Her landscapes, barns, vineyards, water, and sky images are renowned. Her small working studio was a respite for many friends, family and art enthusiasts. Those who visited Peninsula Studio were greeted by bright colors, birch trees and Debi, who spent her life teaching others how to view the world through a paint brush. You may have seen her in the big orange hummerlicense plate "OLDMISSION"she would drive until inspired by a barn or area for her next masterpiece. Easel in tow, she would sit on the side of the road, next to a vineyard, or in the middle of a sunflower field and paint.
Debra is survived by her three children Ashley Davison, Todd Davison (Kristen), Julia Boss (Mitch); Gary; sisters Annette Nickel (Jim), Colleen Nickel, Sue MacLean (Mac); cousin Lori Banas (Bella), and Judy (Larry) Sigalinski; nieces Michele and Chris Frasz (Norah and Lydia), Julie Murphy (Cole and Cameron), Sara Anderson (Emma), Angie and Guy Busch (Sydney and Aidan); nephews Chris Nickel (Emily), Greg and Leanna Nickel (Scarlet and Lylah); dear friends Karen, Victoria, Maureen, Scott, Polly, Carol and many others. She was preceded in death by parents Roy and Ruth and brothers Doug and Gary.
Contributions should be directed to a special piece of artwork.
Published on February 6, 2018
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