Life Story Visitation
Food, Drinks and Stories will be shared.
A time of sharing will be held at 6 pm. The time of sharing will be Live Streamed.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of SW Michigan
3501 Covington Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
The room seemed far too small for the hearty group assembled. The group was smiling but subdued because of the conspicuous absence of one. They sobbed and chuckled sometimes even roared with laughter as they recounted the rich life of Barbara Lee Couzens, their co-worker, neighbor, friend, and mother.
“Bonnie was all about Christmas” smiled an old friend seated along the wall.
Bonnie was what most people called her, and she was definitely a lover of family Christmas. A love that developed at her childhood home in Northbrook, Illinois. She was constantly telling stories of church services and stockings over the huge fireplace. She talked of tobogganing, ice skating, Santa’s sleigh in the front yard, and the box of presents that was always found next to her father’s bed. The Christmas of 1978 stuck in her head the most – for the love and laughter the family shared as they celebrated with Nana and Gramps who had come in from Lake Forest.
“Hallmark Christmas movies!” yelled someone from the back of the room.
The group erupted in laughter. Bonnie LOVED her sappy Christmas movies.
“Don’t forget about her famous coffee cake!” a family member called out.
A collective “mmmmmm” rippled through the crowd. These were obviously people who had tasted her Christmas coffee cake at least once. Bonnie was also famous for her spectacular birthday cakes and the wonderful thank you cards she wrote.
“Mom made every birthday special for us,” added Kelly, Bonnie’s daughter.
That’s because to Bonnie, her children Kelly and TJ were everything. As a single mother, finding time to share with her kids was difficult, but she always made it happen. Money may have been tight in their Kalamazoo home, but Bonnie knew that the most valuable thing she could give to her kids was her time. She spent countless hours at the baseball and softball fields, sometimes watching the games, sometimes hard-selling hot dogs and candy at the concession stand. She smiled when she talked about walks around the lake and swimming at the beach with Kelly and TJ.
“Bonnie was definitely a Mama Bear,” added her son TJ.
And not just because she was a distant relative of George “Papa Bear” Halas (which she pointed out to anyone willing to listen). She was the protector of her children. She took on the role of both mother and father to them. And she did it with enthusiasm and aplomb. A perfect example – Bonnie worked for Big Brothers & Big Sisters, so she was able to make sure that TJ had a Big Brother to serve as a male role model in his life. She wanted her kids to have a happy and safe childhood.
“Then how do you explain the New Kids on the Block story?” said a confused-looking guest.
This is neither the time or the place to rehash that story. Suffice it to say, she only put her daughter into a limo with a total stranger because Kelly had such a major crush on Joey.
“Hey, what about me?” asked a boy with a not-quite-yet-changed voice.
The voice was Zachary. Bonnie’s 11-year old grandson. The apple of her eye. If you remember one thing from this gathering, remember Zack. She spent countless hours with TJ and Joy’s son. Supervised hours of Frisbee throwing and slingshot helicopter launching and Jenga games. She taught him to make birthday cakes for his parents. And sometimes even let HIM lick the beaters. She snow-tubed with him in Nashville. Rode bikes with him in Rosemary Beach, FL. And when she wasn’t spending time with him, she was undoubtedly talking him up to her friends and co-workers. He was truly her pride and joy.
“Who remembers what a daddy’s girl she was?” and several people nodded and chuckled.
In all likelihood, her role model for parenting was her father, with whom she was extremely close. Bonnie could, and did, talk about her father for hours on end. The clubhouse he built them in the backyard. Sitting next to him at the dinner table. The time he shot Oreos and milk out of his nose. Summers at Valley Lo country club. The boat named BANBAW – which derived from the first letter of the kids’ names.
“Wasn’t that the password she used for all her online accounts?”
QUIET IN THE BACK! (Since her accounts haven’t been completely closed, the answer to that question will not be published.)
“Did Bonnie drink?” asked a kindly-looking man with a domestic beer in his hand.
Only accidentally. Despite some of the struggles she endured in her life, Bonnie didn’t touch a drop. Except at the christening of her grandson. She didn’t think they were using real wine, and when it hit her lips, she was rather shocked. Her children, on the other hand, have been known to enjoy a celebratory drink or two.
“Nobody has mentioned her being a huge Cubs fan!” added another guest.
Yes. Bonnie was an ardent fan of both the Bears and the Cubs. The Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory was a source of great pride for her (despite the Indians having outplayed them.)
“Where is she headed from here?”
After her celebration of life in Kalamazoo, she will be cremated and sent to Florida to be buried in a memorial garden with her grandparents.
“ I would love to hear more stories about her,” said a woman clutching a tissue.
You’re in luck. Family and friends will be sharing more Bonnie stories (and further explaining some of those mentioned here) at a celebration of life on Saturday, February 12 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. And rumor has it, they will be passing out copies of Bonnie’s previously unreleased recipes for Christmas Coffee Cake and Bonnie’s Bodacious Birthday Cake (which coincidentally, will be served at her daughter Kelly’s birthday celebration the next day.)
“I’m really going to miss her,” said a younger woman who looked down to hide her teary eyes.
We all will. She’s with her God now, but her legacy lives on through her children, grandchildren, and everyone whose life she touched.
“Bye Bonnie. Rest in peace.”