Ngaire Margaret-Lee-Hepner was born May 27, 1945 in Melbourne, Australia, and died March 23, 2017 in Traverse City, a victim of ALS. Her name is pronounced Ni'-Ree and comes from the indigenous New Zealand Maori language meaning Silver Fern. It's often mispronounced.
Ngaire was born to Myra Armstrong, of Melbourne, Australia, and U.S. Army medic Sgt. Harold Lee, of Gaylord, and she was brought to Gaylord by her father two years later in 1947. Ngaire's dad, Harold, had worked for a couple of years in the medical health/nutrition field in Australia with her grandfather, Lawrence Armstrong, a nationally known author and practitioner in that field and originally from New Zealand. It's no surprise that Ngaire practiced and had significant knowledge in the same field.
She attended Gaylord Public School from kindergarten through high school in a relatively small class with the same kids who became a very close family group, brothers and sisters.
Ngaire loved skiing, hiking, walking, the outdoors, adventure, flowers, plants, baking, reading, movies, murder mysteries, Jeopardy, games, family and friends always, her kids, grandkids, her husband and his very large family, flying with him all over the country, trips to France, England, Israel and Australia, taking pictures - even from his aircraft with the door off up the Hudson River in New York City; she also had a student pilot license.
In high school she worked at the Pendleton Shop in Gaylord and modeled. She worked at the Gaylord Library for 12 years as an assistant to the librarian stacking books, checking them in and out, researching, most notably she was the "Story Hour Lady," reading and story boarding to children from preschool thru third or fourth grade. She is still asked about today, 22 years after her retirement. She didn't smoke or drink.
Ngaire is survived by her two sons, Mark Kassuba and his wife, Melanie and family, Bethany, Zackary, Zoe, Hanna, Abbie and Carley; and Mark's brother, Kevin Kassuba; plus "rellies" in Australia affectionately called her "Sibs," namely Susan Parker, Karen Armstrong, Beryl Armstrong and Warwick Armstrong; husband, Leo "Lee" Raymond Hepner and all of his kids, all of whom Ngaire loved as her own and they her; and the remainder of Gaylord Class of '63.
She was predeceased by her youngest son, Brian Kassuba on April 19, 2010; and her mother and father.
Wherever a beautiful soul has been, there is a trail of beautiful memories ... and that beautiful soul was Ngaire.
There will be a memorial service April 17, 2017, at 11 a.m., at the Reynolds Jonkhoff Funeral Home on Sixth Street in Traverse City.
In lieu of flowers, please make any donations to ALS research in the name of Ngaire M. Hepner to The Lieber Institute, 855 N. Wolfe St., Suite 300, Baltimore, MD 21205.
The family is being cared for by the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services.
Published on April 2, 2017