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Life Story / Obituary
An energetic, generous, and compassionate woman, Audrey Engstrom lived her life to the fullest. She accomplished so many things of which to be proud, but her greatest source of pride and joy was found in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was a fantastic artist and relished in participating in many art shows for many years. Although she will be deeply missed, Audrey leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories that her loved ones will cherish forever.
Looking back on the 1930s, it is difficult to recall much of anything that wasn’t affected by the Great Depression. There were few jobs and a soaring unemployment rate that left countless American families without homes. Despite these tough times, Clyde and Della Lesher celebrated with great joy the arrival of their newborn baby girl, Audrey born on September 29, 1930, in Lansing, Michigan. Born into a family of scientists, Audrey always looked at the world with a unique perspective. Curious from a very young age, she brought great joy and happiness to the family home.
Audrey lived a typical childhood of the times. She loved to keep herself busy and was born with an innate ear for music. She enjoyed taking dance lessons as well as piano. Audrey became an accomplished piano player during her adolescent years even learning to play backward behind her head, a skill she practiced to perfection! The entire family became accustomed to listening to her rehearse for hours to the popular Claire de Lune and Midnight Sonata. Audrey found great satisfaction from both music and the arts that remained with her throughout her life. After graduating from high school, Audrey set off for college. Living so conveniently close to Michigan State University it seemed the easiest choice as she could literally walk to class. During her years at MSU, Audrey was an active member of Chi Omega, a sorority that thrived on a promise of helping its members find their purpose in life. Audrey not only found her purpose, but she also made many lasting friendships with her sorority sisters.
In addition to her connection with the sorority, Audrey hit the jackpot when she met the man of her dreams while attending pottery class. A novice using clay as a medium, she needed more assistance than some of the other students. Lucky for her, Robert Engstrom was working as the graduate assistant at the time, and the rest is history! They kindled a friendship that soon molded into a romance. The happy couple didn’t waste any time and eloped to Angola, Indiana! Joining in marriage on June 13, 1951, they were eager to spend their lives together. Sharing a mutual love of the arts, their early years landed them at countless area shows together. Digging their own clay out of the local dump, their pieces were often pottery but also included metal jewelry. Together they opened their own jewelry company. As their popularity for working with enamel grew, they were often commissioned for special projects such as creating enamel on water fountains including a special piece located at the student center on Central Michigan University's campus. They also created extensive murals in the area that have withstood the test of time and can still be seen to this day.
Starting their young family in Lansing, they relocated to Kalamazoo when Robert landed a teaching position with Western Michigan University. Drawn to the expansive arts in town, they settled in a beautiful home located on Winding Way. It was no surprise that the two creative and talented artists adorned their home with a two-story wall of Gibson guitar necks! It was a masterpiece that led to many conversations with guests over the years. As a mother, Audrey taught her daughters to dance and to seek out their passion in life. She was encouraging and supportive in their every endeavor. As a family, they ventured to Norway when Robert took a sabbatical from Western and they enrolled the girls in school there for a year. They thrived living in adventure and the experience drew the family close to one another. They often reflected fondly on the memories they made together during that time in their lives. Later on in their retirement, Audrey and Bob joined their daughter, Karel in a business partnership opening up Sironen-Engstrom Jewelers in Kalamazoo. They were very proud of this accomplishment and shared in the success for several years.
Audrey and Bob lived wonderfully rich lives together over the years. They both loved to travel and visited Europe together as well as toured across the United States in their motor home. She was a fanatic about genealogy; on occasion they stopped to stay with members of the family in Arizona or Vermont. Yet wherever they were they were happiest together. Eventually, they bought a park model of their own near their daughter, Karin, and began to winter in Tucson, Arizona. Audrey gave many of the seniors in their park dance lessons and enjoyed staying active by horseback riding, panning for gold, playing Bridge, and sunning herself.
Audrey was thrilled when grandchildren came into her life. She valued spending time with each and every one of them. She enjoyed their visits which often included chatting, doing puzzles and playing cards. It was a well-known fact however that Audrey could skunk anyone at Cribbage except her grandson, Robert! Blessed beyond measure, Audrey was also able to welcome ten great-grandchildren in her life! There is no doubt that she will be deeply missed by her special loved ones. May they feel her presence when they join together to share her memories and each time they take the time to notice the wonderful world of art around them. Gone, but not forgotten, may Audrey’s warm spirit and creative nature will continue to shine brightly in their hearts forever.
Audrey H. Engstrom, age 88, of Portage, Michigan passed away on May 25, 2019. She was an active member of the Lord of Life Lutheran Church as well as a member of VASA, Encore, and the faculty wives of WMU. She was preceded in death by her loving husband, Robert in 2003. She is survived by her brother, Wayne Lesher; a first cousin, Shirley Butcher; three children: Kris Engstrom, Karin Lund (Wally Lund) and Karel Engstrom (Scott Lankton); seven grandchildren; ten great-grandchildren with one on the way. A memorial service will be held at 2 PM on Friday, (June 21) at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Portage. Because Audrey loved to dress colorfully with everything to match from her hat, gloves, and shoes, those attending are encouraged to wear bright colors in her honor. Memorial contributions may be made to Kalamazoo Gospel Mission or Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI (269) 375-2900 www.BetzlerLifeStory.com