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Saturday, May 19, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bill Chace celebrated life at his Pancake Corral

Seattle Times staff reporter

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William "Bill" Chace worked at his Bellevue pancake house nearly to the end of his 91 years and seemed to relish every minute of it.

Mr. Chace started and owned Chace's Pancake Corral, a Bellevue landmark since 1958. Earlier, he had co-founded Seattle's Coffee Corral restaurants, though he later sold his interest in them.

"He didn't have to get the batters ready for the cooks, but he liked doing that. He'd rather have the cook sit down and have a pancake," recalled Jane Zakskorn, his stepdaughter and business partner.

"He'd get up at 3:30 a.m., be at the restaurant by 4, get the griddles turned on and the music going - Dixieland or jazz."

By the time Mr. Chace's employees arrived, Zakskorn said, "he'd be back in the kitchen with the music going, making batter, just as happy as he could be."

At the time of his death May 11, Mr. Chace had been away from the eatery's daily operations only a short time.

"He worked there until a year and a half ago. When he was 89 he finally quit driving and decided he couldn't come in as much," Zakskorn said. Even then, he continued to keep the payroll books at home.

Zakskorn and others painted a picture of a man who loved his life, his work and the people around him.

"He had a great life" filled with enthusiasm and activity, said Zakskorn, who first worked at the Pancake Corral at age 10. She eventually became Mr. Chace's partner in the business and now owns it. To her, he was more father than stepfather, as well as the ideal employer.

Arlene Gregorius, who worked for Mr. Chace for 51 years, still serves as a part-time waitress and hostess at the Pancake Corral.

"I can't imagine anyone working for someone that long if they didn't love the man," she said yesterday. "He was like a father."

Some customers come in to the Pancake Corral so often "you wonder if they have a kitchen at home," she said.

Mr. Chace knew many of his customers by name and made a point of accommodating their preferences, Zakskorn said. The Pancake Corral's recipes used today are essentially the same ones used decades ago, and everything is made from scratch.

"Bill had a certain way of doing things, and nobody deviates from that," Zakskorn said.

Mr. Chace's daughter Nancy Chace remembers that he not only taught her a strong work ethic but also was "kind of like a kid at heart with his kids." The circus, baseball games at Sicks' Stadium, trips to a fish farm - all are part of her childhood memories of time with her father.

Mr. Chace was born July 26, 1909, in Nome, Alaska, where his father was a Gold Rush-era doctor. Mr. Chace grew up in Nome as well as Seattle, where he and his parents lived periodically.

After graduating from Roosevelt High School in Seattle, he studied fisheries at the University of Washington and rowed for the UW crew team in the early 1930s.

Soon after college, he co-founded the Coffee Corral restaurants, which grew to six and were Seattle fixtures for several decades, though none remains today.

A Bellevue resident, Mr. Chace had many interests outside his business, especially fishing, handball and golf. For years, he and his wife, Lois, sponsored an annual golf tournament in Hawaii, the Pancake Corral Invitational.

Other survivors include two sons (by his first wife, Phyllis Shannon), William Tony Chace of Bellevue and Michael Chace of Lake Forest Park; two daughters (by his second wife, the late Joyce Chace), Lorraine Chace of Bellevue and Nancy Chace of Renton; stepdaughter Ada Williams of Bellevue; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Services were held Wednesday at Green Funeral Home in Bellevue. Burial was at Sunset Hills Memorial Park.

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