History in a name

ISHPEMING – Due to her 47 years of service as both an employee and proprietor of Lawry’s Pasty Shop, Nancy Lawry Cope’s name is largely synonymous with one of the Upper Peninsula’s most beloved foods. However, Lawry was much more than just a business owner.

She was also the first woman to receive her pilot’s license from the old Marquette airport.

Back in 1966, Cope (originally Nancy Junak) was pregnant with her second son, Michael. At that time, her husband, Roger Lawry, the former owner of Lawry’s Pasty Shop, was earning his pilot’s license through the airport.

“Roger had his license, and we were flying all over,” she said. “And I felt, if something happened to him, I have to be able to fly the plane. So, I was going to take this thing called the ‘Pinch Hitters’ course, where you learn very basic flight skills. Then I started taking the lessons and I really liked it.

“So (Roger) said, ‘Well, why don’t you get your license?'”

Cope said that back then, the Marquette airport was a very popular place to get together, especially for those interested in flying.

“I loved hanging out at the airport, she said. “At that time, there was a lunch counter, and we’d go there to just eat and sit around and talk about flying. We spent many, many hours there. It was a lot of fun.”

Cope began preparing pasties for Roger’s mother, Madelyne, back in 1961, which was her junior year of high school. Roughly 19 years later, in 1980, Cope took the reins of Lawry’s Pasty Shop, a company that began on April 15, 1946.

Even though Cope retired from the pasty business in 2006, the long-standing tradition continued on to her sons Peter and Michael, who run the Marquette and Ishpeming stores, respectively.

“The thing I loved the most was meeting and talking to different people that would come in,” Cope said. “They came from all over the world. We had customers from Australia, England, you name it.”

In addition, Cope, who turned 69 in November, served for many years as a member of the Ishpeming-Negaunee area Chamber of Commerce, and eventually became its president in 1996.

Since her retirement, Cope said she prefers to spend her time with her family. But when she isn’t busy with them, there is a good chance she is out walking, dancing, or snowshoeing somewhere.

“I just love to walk and be outdoors,” she said.

Justin Marietti can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 245.