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Life Story / Obituary
The world lost the best mom and grandmother that any son, daughter, or grandchild could ever ask for when God reached down to claim Arlene’s soul on August 19, 2020.
Born on November 24, 1923, in the quiet community of Mt Horeb, Wisconsin, to the parents of Leslie and Annie Kahl, no one could have foretold the role Arlene was going to play in helping to create history in the Women’s Movement during World War II. After meeting Michael Opria, who was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Mt Horeb, she graduated from Mt Horeb High School in 1941, and subsequently moved with her new husband to live in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. The advent of WWII saw the armed forces swell with recruits and women replacing men in the factories and shipyards producing munitions, armored vehicles, ships, aircraft, etc. Michael entered the U.S. Navy and Arlene responded to the call of working at the Ford Motor Company Willow Run B-24 Bomber Plant from 1942 to 1945. The term Rosie the Riveter was coined in a song by the same name in 1942 to describe all the women who were dedicated to various employment roles in the war effort. The woman most closely identified as the national symbol of “Rosie” was Rose Will Monroe, a colleague of Arlene’s at the Willow Run Plant who, like Arlene, was employed as a riveter. Although Rose became recognized as the one who best fit the description of the worker in the aforementioned song, the Opria family will forever believe in their hearts that Arlene was the true Rosie the Riveter.
Arlene’s passion for life burned the brightest when she had the opportunity to share her unqualified love and support for her immediate and extended families; cooking; and quilting. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners highlighted Arlene’s culinary magic as these meals became legend among family members and guests with the quality, quantity, and selection of items on the menu. Preparation of roast goose, homemade stuffing and gravy, turkey, the best ham available, and all the fixings took days to prepare. Allowing one’s dinner to settle afforded you the luxury of hearing the dessert table call your name to feast on a smorgasbord of treats including the best fresh blueberry pie in the world, pecan, peach, and pumpkin pie with heavy whipped cream. The most important aspect of this ritual was not limited to the holidays, because at any day or time of the year Arlene enjoyed sharing her craft with her family, relatives, and friends. As one of Brian’s friends once remarked, “Your mom always made us feel like we were one of her kids.”
Arlene’s legacy as an artisan was established with the construction of thirteen hand sewn quilts for her children and grandchildren. Each of the quilts bore their own unique design and was painstakingly hand sewn from the selection of hundreds of pieces of different fabric. However, as pleasing to the eye as the quilts are, the construction of a figurative quilt of valuable qualities of the human spirit as modeled by Arlene throughout her life has proven to be indelibly etched in the minds of her children. The enduring qualities Arlene incorporated into the protective quilt that she surrounded her family with include: Empathy – “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others is the cornerstone of human existence”; Humility – “humility is the first lesson we learn from reflection”; Patience – “to know how to wait is the great secret of success”; Perseverance – “the virtue lies in the struggle, not in the prize’; Faith – “faith is the root of all blessings”; Understanding – “be insightful, tolerant, and forgiving”; Truth – “truth does not need to be defended”; Wisdom – “common-sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom”; Forgiveness – “never does the human soul appear so strong and noble as when it forgoes revenge, and dares to forgive an injury"; Benevolence – “always acting in a kind manner”; and Success – “success is measured not by how much you possess, but by how much you share with others”. We shall be forever indebted to our mom for the threads she used to bind the fabric of this quilt and they include the Bond of Unconditional Love and God’s Grace.
Arlene leaves to cherish her memory, her son Brian Michael Opria, daughter Marsha Gretchen (Glen) Wallington, sister-in- law Dolores Kahl, grand children Ryan Michael (Elizabeth) Opria, Michael (Elissa) Wallington, Kevin (Rosie) Wallington, Stephen (Carli) Wallington, Jonathan Wallington, Elizabeth Wallington, Wade (Bree) Cooke, Amber (T.J.) Anderson, Gwen (Dan) Smith, Heather Maresha (John) Cox, and 15 great grand children.
Arlene was preceded by her father Leslie Kahl (1979), mother Annie Kahl (1984), brother Milton Kahl (1996), husband Michael Opria (2002), daughter Laurie Ann (Kirk) Cooke (2009), and a host of wonderful friends and relatives in Mt Horeb, WI. Those relatives served as outstanding role models not only for Arlene, but her children as well, as they grew from infancy to adulthood.
This memorial tribute to Arlene would not be complete without the family recognizing the following individuals and the heroic commitment each of them have personally extended in providing comfort and professional medical care during the last two years of Arlene’s journey with her residence at The Springs Health Care Center at The Fountains. The Springs: Aubrey, Carly, Chanda, Cliff, Gary, Janelle, Jennifer, Jessica C., Joel, Julie, Kaycee, Laurie and the Entire Complement of Food Service Personnel, Lonetta, Lynn K., Lynn T., Meagan, Reha, Tina G., Travis, Tresa B., and Veronicah. Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan: Jeff, Melissa, and Phyllis.
Memorial contributions may be directed to Doctors without Borders or Samaritan’s Purse.
Arlene was laid to rest in a private graveside ceremony at Roseland Park Cemetery in Berkley, Michigan.
Please visit Arlene’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49009, (269) 375-2900