Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Carla Aileen Palanca

August 8, 1931 - December 27, 2020
Kalamazoo, MI



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.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
501 St. Jude Place
Memphis, TN 38105
Web Site

Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
448 N. Burdick Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Web Site

Any area animal rescue of your choice.


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Friends and acquaintances of Carla Palanca will agree that her kind spirit always radiated through in all her life experiences, both mundane and monumental. Carla’s ability to enjoy the companionship of her family and friends in even the most trivial of daily events was evident in her ready laughter and sincere appreciation of each new day. She considered herself blessed many times over for what she believed was her very fortunate life.

Carla Aileen Newman Palanca was born in South Haven, Michigan, on August 8, 1931, to her musician father Charles and her mother Dorothy. As her father was often on the road with his dance band, Carla and her mother lived with Carla’s grandparents, Alfred and Lulu Newman, at their home in Glenn. Tragically, Carla’s father died unexpectedly when she was only 10 months old. Carla’s mother began working, and her jobs took her away from home. Carla continued to live with her grandparents. She attended Glenn Elementary school, where she earned many academic accolades. She moved to live with her aunt and uncle, Celesta and Vern Murphy, and transferred to the South Haven school system when she was in seventh grade. Carla graduated from high school in 1949. During her high school years, Carla was involved in band, drama, and competitive speaking, for which her talent earned an impressive number of awards at the local, regional, and state levels.

When WWII ended, Carla’s mother married Harold Foll. Although she continued to live with her aunt and uncle, Carla was quite close to her mother and stepfather, later including them in all holidays and family milestones. Carla also welcomed her half-sister, Autumn, who was born a month after her own first child was born. Carla’s close commitment to Dorothy and Harold continued until their deaths.

After graduation from high school, Carla attended a semester at Central Michigan College. She decided to return to the lower western part of the state to be closer to her family. Carla worked as a secretary for Auto Specialties in St. Joseph until she decided to attend Western Michigan University. At WMU, Carla was involved with the University Players theater troupe and worked for esteemed theater director, Laura V. Shaw, as her secretary. It was during this time that Carla met the man who would become the love of her life, Arnie Palanca. They were married on April 19, 1952, and their romance lasted for almost 63 years.

Growing up as an only child, Carla’s sustaining wish was for a large family. She got her wish. Their first daughter, Mary, arrived the year after they were married. Chuck was welcomed in 1955, and Lisa was born the following year. Perry arrived in 1960, and Abby was welcomed in 1961. The family resided at 35 Apache Court, a home that grew as the children grew. Carla and Arnie put their children at the center of their lives, attending plays, sporting events, and academic programs. Carla became known as “Super Fan” for her enthusiastic cheering from the stands.

Probably the most recent cherished high points of Carla’s life centered on her grandchildren—Claire, Ariel, Gabrielle (Chris), Chelsea, Alyssa, Sam, Gabe, Eric, Casey—and her great grandchildren, Reece, Knox, and Flynn. As the grandchildren were growing up, both Carla and Arnie attended as many of their school and life events as they could. Carla loved hearing from all her grandchildren, who are now spread across the country. Carla eagerly relayed their successes to her friends. She was very proud of them all.

Carla and her husband enjoyed traveling with friends and family. They were able to spend many vacations with their children in a variety of locations in the United States and overseas, and they also took many trips with friends. Carla and Arnie owned a condominium in Davie, Florida, for over 25 years. Although many of their South Haven friends also spent winters in that location, Carla and Arnie made lifelong friends among the residents of their complex. The group looked forward to their winters and, during the summers, visited each other at their respective homes “up north.”

Carla was an active member of St. Basil’s Catholic Church when the family lived in South Haven, attending Mass on most days. When her children were enrolled at St. Basil School, Carla served as “Room Mother” many times, and she sold cafeteria tickets to the students. Carla had a ready smile and a kind word for all of the kids. In addition, she was a volunteer for Meals on Wheels for many years. Carla was also a gifted artist and spent much time at her Grandmother Lulu Newman’s artist workshops, turning out impressive pastel paintings. When she and her husband moved to Kalamazoo to be closer to most of the family, Carla joined a knitting group. She truly enjoyed the camaraderie of her knitting buddies and looked forward to their Thursday knitting sessions and lunches.

Carla Palanca’s legacy cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Those who were privileged to know her will keep their memories close to their hearts. Her daughters-in-law, Laurie and Rochelle, and her son-in-law, Rich, received her sincere love and affection. Surely, Carla will share a laugh from heaven with us when we all get together to recount some of our favorite stories. She was never afraid to chuckle at herself. So many people will feel the loss of Carla in their lives, while the family and friends who preceded her in death are undoubtedly greeting her. Carla’s husband, Arnie, will be the first to welcome her with open arms, probably asking, “What took you so long?”

Carla Palanca’s cremains will be interred with her husband’s at Ft. Custer Memorial Cemetery. A memorial service will be planned for next summer when, hopefully, family and friends can be together. Memorial contributions can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, or an area animal rescue of your choice. Please visit Carla’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900