Inez Marie Casale Stempeck
Reno - February 11, 1927- September 26, 2020
"She was singularly the strongest individual we have ever known. She was the best of us."
Inez passed peacefully surrounded by her family. She died of natural causes having lived an incredible life.
She was the Jewel in our Crown and a member of The Greatest Generation. The last of Reno's original Restauranteurs, she was the cornerstone of our Family and the community she loved so dearly. We are overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support from our community. Many of you have shared stories of her and how she touched your lives, these kindnesses have sustained us and your love for her most certainly enriched her life.
A Sparks girl from the start, she was born to Giovanni and Elvira Casale on the Coney Island dairy. She attended Orvis Ring elementary school (One of her favorite stories was about how she won the award for "Smallest Pet" at the Orvis Ring Pet Parade—her winning entrant was a snail!), Northside Junior High and was a proud graduate of Sparks High School class of '46.
In no particular order-and likely incomplete- her recognitions were numerous and varied: Inez was honored to be the State President of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) was featured in AAA's Via Magazine, Nevada Magazine as well as Edible Reno Tahoe. The Halfway Club is #1 in the book "100 Things to do in Reno before you Die" by Mikalee Byerman and numerous books and articles by Guy Clifton. Inez appeared in the book "The Motel Life" by Willy Vlautin. Willy wrote that if he were lucky enough to choose his last meal it would be at the Halfway Club. Inez was also a contributor to UNR's Oral History Project and was featured on the cover of their book of stories and recipes from area Italian-American families. She and the Halfway Club were also mentioned in Neil Cobb and Jerry Fenwick's book series "Reno Now and Then". Inez was fortunate to be a contributor to the RGJ's "Nevada at the Millennium" series. In 1999 she was selected as the Reno Rodeo's Grand Marshall. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Governor Sandoval's Conference on Small Business. In 2017 Inez was inducted into the Sparks High School Hall of Fame -it was among the proudest moments of her life. In 2018 she was featured on the Travel Channel's "Zimmern List" she has been mentioned on numerous occasions on the "Only in Our State" and "Thrillist" websites. Inez and Casale's have been recognized by Nevada Restaurant Association as the longest standing continually family owned restaurant in the State. She was featured in an amazing short film, The Queen of The Halfway Club by Michael Monteleone.
Inez embodied humility, generosity of heart and spirit. She donated to many a worthy cause including the Nevada State Fair, Washoe County schools, the American Heart Association and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. She was a volunteer for Jack's Carnival (at the time the largest fundraiser for Sparks schools) for over 35 years, hosting a spaghetti feed as well as manning the cotton candy booth. Inez was a good friend. She worried about you and loved you and your families … .and you loved her right back. We have heard from many that a bit of advice or the occasional "corrective interview" in the ravioli room made a difference in your life. It did in ours, too. She valued relationships both business and personal. These relationships were invaluable in good times and especially in bad. After the death of our Dad, she-and our entire family- felt the love and support of her community, from City and County leadership to the kids who played Babe Ruth Baseball for him. Those relationships are intact today.
Her accolades pale in comparison to what she considered her greatest accomplishment, her Family.
Preceded in death by husbands Casimir "Steamboat" Stempeck and Otto "Eddie" Booth, as well as son Bill O'Coyne and recently her son Tony, Inez is survived by her brother Jerry, his wife Beverly, their family as well as numerous cousins, nieces and nephews in addition to Eddie's daughters Dora Donaghy, Lisa D. Wallace and their families. Inez's children, Charlie (Judy), John (Louise), Madaline, Helen (Joel Sr.) and Maria (Rod) as well as her grand-children, great grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren will carry forward her legacy of love and Family. It is indeed the gift that keeps giving.
As we have reflected on the life of our "Queen Bee" we keep coming back to the sentiment that she was singularly the strongest individual we have ever known. She was the best of us.
We will carry on the tradition of the Halfway Club, she would not have it any other way. In memory of these two very proud Sparks High graduates (Inez class of'46 and Tony class of '75), a memorial scholarship has been established to benefit SHS students interested in pursuing further education in the Culinary/Hospitality industries. Donations to this 501 (c) (3) can be made to Sparks High School, attn: Our Legacy Scholarship, 820 15th Street, Sparks, Nevada 89431. Please accept our humble thanks for the generosity of family and friends, the beautiful flowers, and heartfelt condolences. These kindnesses have made a huge difference to us all.
Arrangements through Truckee Meadows Cremation and Burial in conjunction with Mountain View Cemetery. Our sincerest thanks to Heather, Alex and Harrison at Truckee Meadows for their kindness and courtesy throughout.
Published in the Reno Journal-Gazette and Mason Valley News from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, 2020.