Nancy Kelly Kistler Obituary – The Commercial Appeal


Nancy Kelly Kistler, 70, of Memphis, passed away on March 6, 2024.

Nancy Ellen Kelly was born September 17, 1953, in Burlington, NC. She was the loving daughter of Richard (Dick) Burton Kelly and Kathyrn Kirby Kelly, and the younger, mischievous sister of Richard (Dana) Dana Kelly.

Nancy attended Meredith College and the University of North Carolina, receiving a degree in dental hygiene and English literature. Tar Heel born and bred, Nancy would like you to cheer for UNC at any opportunity (but especially if they are playing Duke or NC State)

Food was one of Nancy’s lifelong passions. She grew up cooking alongside her mother and grandmother, both phenomenal cooks. Demonstrating her exceptional culinary skills from an early age, Nancy won the Betty Crocker Award during her senior year at Terry Sanford Senior High School in Fayetteville, NC. Though she began her career as a dental hygienist, Nancy’s love for food and cooking drew her into the restaurant world. She started cooking professionally at De La Fayette in North Carolina, eventually rising to Executive Chef and operating a preeminent catering company.

Moving to Memphis in 2001, she worked with the health department to improve the oral health of public-school children, but it wasn’t long before she drawn back to food, as a cooking instructor at Viking Cooking school, running Miss Cordelia’s Table, and then as the Catering and Event Director for Entourage and River Oaks. Known for her attention to detail, grace under pressure, and organizational prowess, Nancy catered lavish events throughout the Mid-South. Nancy was as founding member and director of the Memphis Food and Wine Festival and worked as a food stylist in print and TV with the Food Network. Since 2019, Nancy taught medical students about the intersection between food and health at the University of Tennessee Health and Science Center’s Culinary Medicine program. A lifelong learner, she completed her certification in Culinary Medicine.

In 1997, Nancy met Charlie Kistler and their romance brought her to Memphis. Married in 2002, Nancy and Charlie were devoted to and doted on each other. Nancy was a willing conspirator in her husband’s travel adventures and, with Charlie, created innumerable wonderful memories traveling to see family, friends, and sites abroad.

Nancy is survived by her loved and loving husband, Charles E. Kistler III; brother Dana; stepchildren Charles (Amber) and Chrissy (Jeff); and grandchildren Mallory, Annie, Charlotte, Roy, and Carl. Nancy embraced the role of grandmother and lavished affection-including bubble baths and lots of chocolate – on her five grandchildren. Helene Champ was like a daughter to Nancy and dearly loved. The family is indebted to Helene for her unwavering devotion and support. Nancy’s eclectic multitude of friends would do anything for her- though she never asked – and were drawn to her laugh, generosity of spirit, occasional feistiness tempered with kindness, and encouragement. There was only one Nancy. She will be missed.

Nancy celebrated life every day with lots of family, enduring friendships, and a love of beautiful things – music, art, flowers, and food. Remember Nancy with a great meal, laughter, and a good drink.

Everyone has a story about Nancy, and we would love to hear them all. Please share a memory of Nancy at (Canale Funeral Directors link)

A memorial service will be held at The Dixon Garden and Gallery in the Hughes Pavilion and Terrace, Friday April 26, 2024 at 2:00 PM.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Nancy’s honor to MIFA ( or any organization that provides food to those indeed.


Posted online on March 26, 2024

Published in The Commercial Appeal


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