Nancy Cochran (Rhea) Behrends, a devoted wife, mother, loving grandmother, and cherished friend, peacefully passed away surrounded by her loved ones in Fort Collins, CO on Tuesday, February 13, 2024. She was 75 years old. Memorial services will be held at 10:30 A.M. on Saturday, March 2, 2024 at the Chappell Methodist Church in Chappell, NE with Pastor Riann Nels officiating. Friends and family are invited to attend and celebrate the life of a remarkable woman who touched the lives of so many.  Services will be livestreamed on the Gehrig-Stitt Chapel Facebook page and recorded for later viewing on our website.  Cremation has taken place.  Services will conclude at the church.   

       Friends may stop at the Gehrig-Stitt Chapel on Friday from 1-6:00 P.M. to sign Nancy’s book. Family will be present 4-6:00.  You may view Nancy’s Book of Memories, leave condolences, photos and stories at www.gehrigstittchapel.com.   

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in memory of Nancy made to Adopt-A-Dog Animal Rescue in Chappell, NE, or Sedgwick County Nursing Home in Julesburg, CO. Gehrig-Stitt Chapel & Cremation Service, LLC is in charge of Nancy’s care and funeral arrangements.           

Nancy Cochran (Rhea) Behrends was born to Kenneth and Alberta Rhea on September 29, 1948 in Des Moines, IA. Along with her older sister Karen, the family resided in Crawfordsville, IA where her mother, Alberta, taught and her father, Kenneth, ran the family grocery store. Nancy attended elementary school in Crawfordsville and graduated from Waco High School in Olds, IA in 1966. She participated in tap dance, ballet, and acrobat dancing throughout her youth with tap being her favorite. She twirled, whirled, and spun her way in many dance recitals and even had a chance to dance in Europe, but her parents didn’t let her go. She was active in basketball, softball, track, and band. Outside of all of her activities she also worked at the family grocery store in Crawfordsville called Kenway Store.

After graduating high school she attended John F. Kennedy College in Wahoo, NE on a basketball scholarship. At that time, she played a guard position for the six-player basketball team at JFK. Teams had six players each instead of five. Only forwards were allowed to play offense on the frontcourt, as guards played defense in the backcourt. While at JFK she got the nickname “Boomer” which her college friends continue to call her to this day. Nancy played all 4 years at JFK, she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Sorority and was a camp counselor in the Poconos during her summers. Nancy graduated JFK in 1970 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education.

Nancy’s first teaching job was in Sunol, NE teaching K-2nd which included a whopping 8 students. At this time, she met James Dean Behrends through a mutual friend, he had just gotten out of the service. They locked eyes and she even remembered he wore a yellow jacket on that first meeting. After one year in Sunol, she moved on to Dalton, NE where she taught 2nd grade. While teaching in Dalton, Nancy and Jim continued their relationship until Jim popped the question in a closet. Jim and Nancy were married on August 9, 1974, in Crawfordville, IA at the United Presbyterian Church. After marriage, they moved to Chappell in 1974 where she lived the rest of her married life. Jim and Nancy were married for 49 years.

In Chappell, Nancy continued teaching 2nd grade until their first child, Kimberly Dawn, was born in September 1978. Matthew Ryan soon followed in January 1980. Nancy put a halt on teaching to raise her children. She stayed home until Matt was old enough to attend school. In 1986 she returned to teaching at Chappell Elementary School in the kindergarten class. While teaching kindergarten, she pursued a Master’s in Education from Concordia Teacher’s College in Seward. She transitioned to kindergarten in the morning and Special Education in the afternoons and then went to full-day kindergarten until she retired in 2005 after teaching for 26 years.

After retiring, Nancy enjoyed substituting in Creek Valley Public Schools, as well as, in South Platte Public Schools. She and Jim traveled, sometimes wintering in Florida and Texas or going to the Bahamas, Colorado, or South Carolina with her children and grandkids. If Matt or Kim needed someone to watch the boys or even the dogs and cats, Nancy or “Nanny,” as she was lovingly called would hop in the car and spend days, weeks, or sometimes months taking care of them.

Nancy was a kind, caring, and nurturing woman. She was strong, positive, had a fantastic sense of humor, and always had a smile on her face. She was much like her father, Kenneth, who always brought a smile to people’s faces and made them feel good.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Kenneth and Alberta, older sister Karen, and an infant sister. Nancy is survived by her husband Jim; two children, Kim and Matt (Marie); four grandchildren Aiden, Ryker, Nolan, and Myles; and her two nieces Tammy (Steve) Girling and Tricia (Clark) Brown.

The family would like to express gratitude for the outpouring of love and support during this difficult time.

Nancy will be dearly missed but will forever live on in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to know and love her.

May she rest in eternal peace.

“What is gone is treasured because it was what we once were.” ? David Grann