Nancy Jane Occhipinti



Memorial Contributions

Amnesty International

Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters

Director of Development

2025 E. Fulton St

Grand Rapids, MI 49503



Our beloved Nancy Jane (DeFors) Occhipinti died peacefully at home Saturday, June 6, 2020, surrounded by her loving family after a long battle with cancer. Nancy’s interests and talents were wide-ranging, and she lived life with gusto. She was a fierce believer in peace and justice, and was known for her passion for human rights and nature, and was a champion for diversity. Most of all, she cherished her large, lively Italian family. Nancy was preceded in death by her parents, Leroy and Catherine (Schroeder) DeFors and special sister-in-law, Clementia DeFors and brother-in-law Steven Larsen. Nancy is survived by her husband of nearly 44 years, Thomas Michael Occhipinti, and four adult children: Matthew (Anamie) Occhipinti, Nicholas Occhipinti and (Arye Shannon-Carmichael), Benjamin (Stephanie) Occhipinti and Carmen Occhipinti. She is also survived by 5 siblings: Mary (Sam) Shortino, Barbara (Jerry) Erban, Michael DeFors, Martha (David) Scrivener, and Connie (Stephan) Jones; five grandchildren, Julia, Ryan, Aaron, Evan and Lily; special friend, Nancy Gill, as well as many nieces and nephews.


Nancy was born on Dec. 18, 1952 in Lansing, MI, and is a graduate of Lansing Catholic Central. She received her bachelor’s degree from Aquinas College and Registered Nursing degree from Mack Centre, Niagara College in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. A nurse for over 30 years, Nancy worked in nearly every Grand Rapids hospital and in many departments until cancer forced her retirement. She also worked at the pain clinic and for a renowned hand surgeon. Nancy had a heart for diversity and was a formidable warrior for human rights on all fronts; her deep empathy for others was boundless. A voracious reader, she was insatiably curious and a woman of high intellect; she wanted to see and do everything in life, from travel and painting to cooking and gardening. Nancy had a special love for nature and the environment, reflected in a lifetime of practices ahead of their time such as recycling, composting and reusing everything. She was full of contagious enthusiasm and was always open, genuine and vulnerable and expected the same of others. She loved a good conversation! Nancy saw the inter-connectedness of all things, of all people and chose a life of great depth and sincerity, great love and faith. The ripples of her impactful life will flow for generations to come.


Funeral service is at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, June 11, at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, 1449 Wilcox Park Drive. Visitation is 6-8 p.m. Tuesday and 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at O’Brien Gerst Funeral Home, 3980 Cascade Rd. SE. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Amnesty International, Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters, or the ACLU.

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7 Responses

  1. Nancy was a wonderful conversationalist and always ready (and willing) to challenge anyone’s opinion. We’re so sorry for your loss and pray that God will comfort you over the upcoming days, months, and years.

  2. Nancy, I never had the honor of meeting you, but became fast friends with your amazing daughter, Carmen. Thank you for all of the amazing work you’ve done while here on earth. Now you can get your rest. Praying for the Occhipinti family.

  3. My heart is so sad for all of you. Nancy was a force and I’m so glad that I had the privilege of getting to know her.

  4. My sympathies to you all at this difficult time. She was clearly a remarkable person.

  5. Tom, my sincere sympathies to you on the loss of your wife. I was so saddened to see this and I pray that God and the comfort of your family and friends will help you during your time of grief.
    Deb Visser
    Carpool Friend

  6. Matt and Anamie (and the rest of the Occhipinti Clan!)… so sorry for your loss. The world’s loss as well. Loved your mom; we remember her kindness going all the way back to our high school days onward. The need to support ACLU has been gnawing at me for quite some time, but I’ve never taken that first step of actually donating. Until now; in memory of Nancy! Love, Pellerito Family in Upstate NY – Mark, Marisa, Autumn, Evan, and Emilia

  7. Prayers for strength, and comfort during this difficult time. Our hearts are with you. David, and Martha

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