Nancy R. Frenkil, a horsewoman and avid gardener who enjoyed entertaining family and friends, died Saturday of cancer at Nancy Lee Farms, her Worthington Valley home.
Mrs. Frenkil was 75.
The daughter of a carpenter/home builder and a homemaker, Nancy Russell was born and raised in Randallstown, which had previously been named Randall's Meadow by her forebears.
An only child, Mrs. Frenkil grew up in a house that her father built himself.
"The family income was limited, so Nancy learned to play hockey with a discarded broom," said her husband of 54 years, Victor "Bruz" Frenkil Jr., who fell in love with her when they were students at Milford Mill High School.
After graduating from high school in 1954, she attended the University of Maryland, College Park, and Strayer's Business College. In 1958, she and Mr. Frenkil were married.
Mrs. Frenkil, who was a lifelong animal lover, established Nancy Lee Farms at her Glyndon home, where she bred and trained thoroughbreds.
"She was an uncommonly gifted horse whisperer. Nancy could diagnose a horse's condition from across the pasture," her husband said. "She bred and raised winners that she raced at Pimlico, Laurel, Delaware Park and Charles Town. She even raced at Monmouth Park in New Jersey."
In addition to her horses, Mrs. Frenkil filled her farm with cats, dogs, chickens, goats, a miniature Sicilian donkey she named "Donk," and other animals.
"She started with the thoroughbreds," said her husband, a Baltimore businessman and former president of Jarvis Steel & Lumber Co. Inc. "She'd be up early every morning and down at the barn caring for them. The barn was strictly her bailiwick."
Interested in animal welfare, Mrs. Frenkil actively supported the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, the Humane Society and Wildlife Rescue Inc.
"A thread woven throughout Nancy's life was care and concern for the welfare of all creatures, two-legged, four-legged and winged, both domestic and wild," wrote Tony Wier, a longtime friend, in a tribute to Mrs. Frenkil.
In addition to raising and caring for her animals, Mrs. Frenkil was an accomplished gardener whose rose garden boasted more than 27 varieties of roses. She also scattered birdhouses and feeders throughout her farm to attract songbirds.
Known as a gracious and accommodating hostess, Mrs. Frenkil enjoyed giving parties at her home and at a second home on the Magothy River.
"She gave an annual Fourth of July party, as well as a Hunt Cup and New Year's Eve party," said a son-in-law, Greg Ayers of Stewartstown, Pa. "And they were large parties."
"The Fourth of July party was for the employees of Jarvis and held at their place on the Magothy, where the caterer set up tents," said David F. Hare, who worked a decade for the company as a manager of the roof and floor truss plant.
"They had steamed crabs, hot dogs and hamburgers. Kids could go swimming," said Mr. Hare. "Nancy was the kind of hostess who made sure everyone was taken care of and that the caterer was doing his job and that the flow was going the way it should be going."
Mr. Hare, who also attended Mrs. Frenkil's Hunt Cup and New Year's Eve celebrations, said she had to move the party one year to the Glyndon Fire Hall when her home was undergoing construction.
"The food was always outstanding, and as midnight approached, she had her grandchildren hand out hats and noisemakers from boxes to the guests," he said.
At the Hunt Cup party, Mrs. Frenkil would lead her guests on a walk from her home through the woods to the Worthington Valley course.
"It was a very long walk and because she loved horses, she'd tell all stories about the course and the race as we walked along," said Mr. Hare.
At the conclusion of the race, Mrs. Frenkil would board an ATV to get home to make sure all the food was ready when her guests returned from watching the race, said Mr. Hare.
"Nancy had a very outgoing personality, and you couldn't ask for a better host. If you were missing something, she made sure you got it. She was just a wonderful person to be around," said Mr. Hare."
"When they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, Nancy told me she was finally getting used to crowds," Mr. Hare said with a laugh.
Mrs. Frenkil and her husband enjoyed a successful interfaith marriage: She was a Methodist and he was Jewish.
Mrs. Frenkil had been a member of Carroll's United Methodist Church and Gill's United Methodist Church, which merged to become Carroll's-Gill's United Methodist Church in Lutherville.
She regularly attended services and organized many charitable and educational events, including an annual fall Hunger Walk that raised funds to feed the underprivileged.
In recent years, she was a member of Glyndon United Methodist Church. She was also a member of her husband's synagogue, Har Sinai Congregation, where she attended High Holy Days services with Mr. Frenkil and other family members.
"And I'd go to her church for Christmas, Easter and other religious holidays," said Mr. Frenkil.
Mrs. Frenkil was a world traveler and was interested in the cultures of other countries.
Services for Mrs. Frenkil will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Frenkil is survived by a son, Victor "Bunky" Frenkil III of Parkton; two daughters, Jean F. Ayers of Stewartstown and Louise F. Baker of Reisterstown; and 10 grandchildren.