Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Carol Ann Wunderlin

September 28, 1933 - June 29, 2020
Portage, MI



Monday, July 6, 2020
11:00 AM EDT
St. Martin of Tours Parish
5855 East W Avenue
Vicksburg, MI 49097

Mass of Christian Burial

Monday, July 6, 2020
12:00 PM EDT
St. Martin of Tours Parish
5855 East W Avenue
Vicksburg, MI 49097

Burial will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.


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.

Alzheimer's Association - Michigan Great Lakes Chapter
200 Turwill Ln Suite 6
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
(269) 342-1482
Driving Directions
Web Site

Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
7100 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 345-0273
Driving Directions
Web Site


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


With a strong will and boundless energy, Carol Ann Wunderlin lived a wholehearted life. Carol was a dynamic woman who possessed many natural talents and an unwavering drive to serve others. She recognized her gifts and freely gave of her talents. Though stubborn, her quick wit often afforded unexpected levity and laughter, even in the face of life's greatest challenges. A devoted wife, mother, and grandmother, Carol's resourcefulness and generosity proved a powerful legacy that inspired all who were blessed to know her. Cherished by many, Carol will long be remembered and ever so missed.

Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, the power of hope undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there more hope than in the home of Milton and Pauline (Denner) Hillsburg as they welcomed their daughter Carol into their family on September 28, 1933.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Carol's early years were rooted in faith and family. The third of the Hillsburgs' four children, Carol was raised upon the firm foundation of Catholicism and the values of hard work and service. Her father owned H and D Service station on the corner of Kalamazoo Ave. and Rose St. and her mother was a homemaker.

Carol's parents made great sacrifices to provide their children with a Catholic education. Carol attended St. Joseph Elementary and St. Augustine High School. She enjoyed sunbathing, roller skating, and ice skating, and was a good student. After graduating with the class of 1951, Carol furthered her education at Parsons Business College. Following her schooling, Carol worked for ten years as a secretary at Industrial State Bank. She then worked at Bond Supply for a few years.

At the age of 9, Carol met her beloved Walter Wunderlin. Walter lived in the same neighborhood, just two houses from her own. He attended St. Augustine High and was Carol's brother Bob's best friend. Though a part of one another's lives for years, it wasn't until after Walter had completed basic training and was feeling strong and fit that he finally found the courage to ask Carol out. The happy couple officially began their courtship in 1959 and were soon setting their eyes on sharing the future together. They celebrated their marriage ceremony on June 4, 1960, at St. Joseph Church and toured the Upper Peninsula for their honeymoon.

Upon returning home, they settled in Kalamazoo. For a short time, they lived in Decatur and, in 1963, settled in Portage, where they lived the rest of their days. Walter taught at Decatur Public Schools for 35 years while also teaching Adult Education at Paw Paw and Portage Public Schools. In 1963, Carol left her work as a secretary and focused on managing the home. She was a meticulous homemaker, and her attention to detail and cleanliness earned her the nickname of "Virgin Mary." Carol's organizational skills resulted in an efficient system that afforded not just an orderly home, but the ability to generously give to others. She believed in sharing her gifts and doing so in a way that did not draw attention. Never one to need the spotlight, Carol always gave from the heart and anonymously provided those in need much needed support.

In 1967 Carol and Walter were blessed with a daughter, Michelle. As they didn't think they could get pregnant, Michelle was a treasured surprise. Though Carol was a very strict and protective mother, she also had a wickedly sharp sense of humor. She loved to laugh and often inspired laughter in others. Because Michelle was an only child, Carol took the time to get down on the floor and play with her. Carol taught Michelle everything. She ensured that Michelle had excellent life skills, including how to be a lady, sew, cook, and find humor in even the darkest moments.

Carol and Walter taught by example. They embodied the principles upon which they built their lives, proving powerful role models. As Walter was a history teacher, most of the family's trips were centered on educational adventures. Later in life, they camped on the shores of Lake Michigan. Carol was exceptionally talented. Her natural abilities to create, coupled with her discipline, resulted in excellence in everything she took on. Listening to her keen intuition, she could make something extraordinary out of nothing. She was a talented seamstress and gardener. She took amazing black and white photos and enjoyed touching them up with color. She also had a natural gift for drawing. Despite having no formal training, her sketches were excellent as were her paintings. She had a wonderful knack for painting her feelings. She loved music and was a self-taught organist, learning by ear. Carol's cooking and baking were unrivaled, and she loved hosting family celebrations. Whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, a birthday, or anniversary, Carol poured herself into every detail. Gatherings always included her delectable works of art, including her scratch cooking. She baked tons of cookies, and her signature homemade mac and cheese was a family favorite. It was clear to everyone who knew her that Carol infused every morsel with love and affection.

It is no surprise that Carol's attention to detail could easily be seen in her impeccable appearance. Regardless of the day's joys or trials, she always looked great. With carefully styled hair, makeup on, and stylish clothes, Carol greeted each day with resolve and gratitude. She loved to shop and find high quality, fashionable items. She was a dedicated Gilmore's shopper for years, and also enjoyed regularly shopping at Chico's and Coldwater Creek.

Carol wasn't big on traveling. She preferred keeping busy at home in Walter's good company. Carol was a natural tinkerer who learned all about cars from her father and brother. Physically strong and always on the move, she enjoyed waxing and detailing her car, keeping her 1989 Mercury Marquee in mint condition. She wondered at the birds around her and enjoyed watching their antics, often while lovingly tending her garden. Her strong hands and artist's vision always resulted in beautiful work. Her flower gardens were pure art, and her vegetable garden prolific. There were few tastier treasures than her canned vegetables served in the middle of a long Winter.

Without a doubt, the world feels less certain in the absence of Carol's steadfast presence. For even in the face of dementia, Carol exuded a strong will and good humor. With her fearless spirit, good judge of character, and quick wit, she taught us how to embrace each day with gratitude and commit ourselves to being our best. And while we will deeply miss her, we will also proudly carry her beautiful legacy of love and generosity forward in each of our lives. With each glass of lemon-aid we savor, every anonymous gift we give, and challenge we meet with determination and humor, we will keep her spirit alive. In these ways, she will continue to inspire others as she so inspired us.

Carol A. Wunderlin, of Portage, age 86, died June 29, 2020, at Rose Arbor Hospice, Kalamazoo, following a three year battle with dementia. Carol was preceded in death by 2 siblings: Joan Haas and Robert Hillsburg. Surviving are her husband of 60 years, Walter Wunderlin; daughter, Michelle Buist; 2 grandsons: Tanner (Amaira) Buist and Carter Buist; 2 great-grandchildren: Axel and Rebel; brother, John (Jean) Hillsburg; and many nieces and nephews. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Monday (JULY 6) at 12 Noon at St. Martin of Tours Parish (5855 East W. Ave., Vicksburg) with visitation beginning at 11 AM. Burial will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit Carol's personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you may read her Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer's Association of Southwest Michigan or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900.