Story & Photo by LISA ANDERSON
“I hated high school, but I loved going to college,” she laughs.
If you are a weekday customer at Chelsea Coffee Company, you may have noticed Nancy Payne making your breakfast orders. She looks like someone’s favorite grandma, and she has the personality to match. You’ll probably get the urge to give her a big hug, if you have the chance to chat with her.
Nancy hasn’t always worked in coffeehouses. She’s originally from Massachusetts, and this well-traveled food-prepper has a few educational degrees that may surprise you. She began her career as a dental assistant, before eventually turning her hand to office machine repair. A few years later, she returned to school for electronics and wound up working for a company where she helped to build test equipment for cables (e.g. cords).
In 1985, she visited Florida and fell in love. It took her two years, but she finally moved to the Ocala area. Her first job here was soldering, but the position was temporary. When the government contract ended, Nancy went back to school to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). She worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) while attending school.
The Bucket List
She graduated in the winter of 1991, and that following spring, she headed to the Appalachian Trail. “That was one of my bucket list things,” recalls Nancy. “It rained every day, and every day I loved it a little more, and every day, my friend hated it a little more. I loved it.” Her friend’s feet blistered and became infected. After two weeks, Nancy and her two companions were on their way home. “That was one of the highlights of my life.
“We did 105 miles on the trail. We were supposed to do the whole thing. I cried all the way home. I was really discouraged. I had given up my apartment. I had sold my furniture, because I wasn’t going to come back there. I expected to be gone for months, not just two weeks.” Nancy later returned to the trail as a volunteer, but she was never able to complete it as originally planned.
When she got back to Ocala after her truncated hike, she moved in with her youngest son and his wife for a few months. She eventually traveled back to Massachusetts for her older son’s wedding and decided to remain there. “Within two weeks, I was so depressed.”
Encouraged with Love
She remembered why she had moved away, and she returned to Ocala. It was meant to be, because Nancy found work at the methadone clinic as a dosing nurse. She met her husband, a counselor, at the clinic. They have been married for 25 years. “He saved me from so much. He just spoiled me rotten. Now I need to pick up where he can’t do it anymore.” Nancy’s husband was recently diagnosed with dementia.
Her husband encouraged Nancy to become a registered nurse (RN), but she unexpectedly received some other encouragement from another local nurse, as well. On Independence Day of 1990, Nancy was thrown from a horse. She broke two ribs in five places and found herself in the hospital. “I was a bad patient,” she laughs. Her nurse at the time told her, “You oughta become a nurse. You’re bitchy enough for it.” Nancy chuckles as she recalls this story.
After earning her nursing degree, she initially worked for Charter Springs Behavioral Hospital and, later, joined the staff at Munroe Regional Medical Center (now AdventHealth Ocala), where she worked for 15 years until her retirement in 2015.
A Cup of Joy
Nancy was a frequent visitor at Chelsea Coffee Company during her time at the hospital. “I used to stop at the coffee shop every morning. I kept telling Brenda, [the owner], when I retire I want to come to work here. I told her that for five years.”
When she did retire, Brenda didn’t waste any time recruiting Nancy. “I was only retired from January 24th to April 6th,” Nancy smiles.
“I love it there. I love Brenda. She’s the best boss I’ve ever had. She has a sense of humor. She works right alongside of you. She helps you when you get stuck on anything. She’s approachable.”
The coffeeshop has a family-type atmosphere that Nancy adores. She missed it when she was temporarily laid off due to the pandemic. Her husband kept her spirits up by giving her a puppy a few weeks into the lay-off. “We have eight dogs. We love our dogs.”
For Nancy, the customers are her favorite part of working at the coffeeshop. “The only thing I missed when I retired [from nursing] were the patients. It wasn’t the job.”
She feels appreciated by both the customers and Brenda. For this reason, Nancy plans to keep making sandwiches and pouring coffee for as long as she can.