Area matriarch ‘brightened the day for everyone’

Richard Burr
The Detroit News
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Nancy Reuter Vlasic was known for putting her family first, including her husband, Robert, of 65 years and five sons.

But Mrs. Vlasic had other passions, including dogs, the arts and books. Her love and promotion of the written word inspired one of her sons to go into journalism and eventually write two books on the auto industry.

“She read more books than anyone I’ve ever known. Personally, she inspired me as a writer,” said Bill Vlasic, a New York Times auto reporter and former Detroit News business reporter.

“She just loved the written word, read to us as kids, gave us books all the time,” said Bill Vlasic, the second oldest of her sons who wrote books on the Daimler-Chrysler merger as well as the fall and resurrection of Detroit’s Big Three automakers.

“And she encouraged me a ton when I started as a reporter on a weekly in Boston nearly 40 years ago. ... She was always excited about books to the very last day of her life.”

Nancy Vlasic died Wednesday at age 87, two days short of her 88th birthday, following an illness.

Nancy Reuter was born in Detroit to John and Irene Reuter. She attended Catholic schools and graduated with a degree in art from Lake Forest College, near Chicago, an interest she continued by painting and decorating.

After she met Robert Vlasic, they were married in 1950. Mrs. Vlasic became a homemaker while Robert Vlasic inherited the family pickle business from his father and turned Vlasic Foods into a national leader in the sale of pickles and relishes. The Michigan-based company was sold to Campbell Foods in 1978.

Family members said Mrs. Vlasic created a welcoming home where friends and strangers alike were treated with kindness.

“She really lived her Catholic faith and the Golden Rule of treating others with care and respect,” Bill Vlasic said. “She truly brightened the day for everyone she encountered.”

Mrs. Vlasic is survived by husband Robert and sons James (Shari), Bill, Rick (Vicki), Michael (Helen) and Paul (Adrianna) as well as 17 grandchildren.

Visitation is Sunday from 2-5 p.m. with the prayer service at 5 p.m. at A.J. Desmond & Sons Funeral Home in Royal Oak.

The funeral mass is scheduled for Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Hugo of the Hills Stone Chapel in Bloomfield Hills. Visitation starts at 10:30 a.m.

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