Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Gene Lacko

October 16, 1919 - August 23, 2020
Kalamazoo, MI



Wednesday, August 26, 2020
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900
Driving Directions

Mass of Christian Burial

Thursday, August 27, 2020
10:00 AM EDT
St. Monica Catholic Church
534 West Kilgore
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Web Site


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. Monica Parish
4408 South Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Web Site

Centrica Care Navigators
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


Gene Lacko was a charming woman with a wide range of talents. Her lifelong philosophy of living life to the fullest, allowed her to enjoy many of life’s richest blessings. Gene lived every moment and cherished putting every bit of herself into each and every one of her family members. Her family will surely treasure and lovingly remember the wonderful collection of memories she leaves behind.

World War I was over and most Americans were eager for peace and security, yet 1919 would prove to be turbulent. Race riots rocked the nation, hundreds of workers went on strike across the country, political unrest ran rampant across Europe and North America, and the Flu Pandemic continued with a brutal wave in the spring. Yet, 1919 also brought jazz to Chicago, the first dial rotary telephone to Norfolk, and a newborn baby girl, Genevieve Marie, to Leon and Cecelia (Hudson) Anton on October 16th in Coldwater, Michigan. Joining her older sister, Virginia, Gene’s birth brought great joy into the family home.

Growing up on a 120 acre farm at 825 Sobie Road in Girard Township in Branch County, Gene lived a typical childhood of the times. She attended a small one room country schoolhouse where she enjoyed playing Anti-I-Over, and spoke of having her school picture taken wearing a fur hat in Mrs. Lena Rice’s first grade class. These early years were often reflected on with great joy and perhaps the reason Gene later followed in her mother’s footsteps and made a career out of teaching. Born with a natural ear for music, she took violin and piano lessons from Mrs. Van Patten and their mother, Cecelia played the drums. A close-knit family they spent quality time together visiting relatives and celebrating special holidays. Gene remembered her mother putting a soapstone in the oven to heat and going on sleigh rides with her father pulled by a team of horses. Her childhood was filled with happy memories.

Genevieve was very active in her adolescent years. She enjoyed riding to and from school in a Ford Model T Roadster with the neighborhood boys, Bob Burleson and Homer Moore who took turns each week. She put her leadership skills to good use at 4-H. She also enjoyed playing and writing music on the piano for the grange dance halls around Branch County . After graduating with the Class of 1936 from Coldwater High School, she set off for Western State Teachers College (WMU) with her sister, Virginia. Before they stepped foot on campus, however, they and another friend toured the country on a road trip down Route 66 to Santa Monica, California. The trip was considered an unconventional adventure for three women during that time period. She and Virginia also played in the college orchestra led by Mr. Amos. After two years, Gene earned her teaching diploma and taught the next four years at a country school before returning to WMU to graduate with her Bachelor’s degree in Education in 1943. With a formal certification, Gene took her first city teaching job in Sturgis, Michigan.

During this exciting time in her life, she also met the love of her life, B. John Lacko from Kalamazoo at a local dance hall. Smitten from the start, they both took turns riding the train back and forth between Sturgis and Kalamazoo to see one another on weekends. Soon they were engaged and joined in marriage on June 26, 1945 at Saint Charles Catholic Church in Coldwater. John was working for the Dunkley Company, so she left her teaching position and they relocated to Colonial Avenue in Kalamazoo. Gene began working as a substitute teacher until they were blessed by their two wonderful children; John and Maryanne. Gene relished her years as a stay at home mom during their childrearing years. When Maryanne was in junior high, she returned to teaching on the suggestion of a close friend. Gene completed her Master’s in Education and spent many of her best years in the field as a fourth grade teacher at Parkwood UpJohn Elementary School near their home at 601 Edgemoor Avenue. Well respected by her staff and students, Gene remained there for 37 years and retired when she was seventy years old! She was proud of all of her students and would often be approached by them in public.

Despite their busy years together, John and Gene ensured a memorable childhood for their children. They instilled in them the importance of education and faith. Longtime members of Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, they later went on to establish Saint Monica’s Parish. Family was immensely important to them and they never missed the annual family picnic at Gun Lake and often traveled to Canada for weddings, anniversaries, and funerals. Nearly every evening gathering included playing Michigan Rummy for pennies. John and Gene treated everyone they met with respect and kindness.

When the children were grown, she and John shared many special pastimes. The two of them enjoyed some traveling over the years to Hawaii, Jamaica, Florida, New York, California, and a special Mediterranean cruise! Gene continued her love of playing the piano and organ. Gene developed her talent for china painting. Later on, it was crossword puzzles, seek and find puzzles, quilting by hand and putting together many 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles! A lover of the big band music of her era, Gene favored the music of Glenn Miller and enjoyed watching The Lawrence Welk Show. Gene will always be remembered for all the ways she touched so many people during her lifetime. Loving, generous, and always one to look for the bright side of life, there is no doubt that she will be deeply missed by her loved ones and many special friends.

Genevieve “Gene” Lacko, age 100, of Kalamazoo died on Sunday, August 23, 2020 at Brookdale Senior Living of Portage. Gene and family were founding and lifelong members of St. Monica Catholic Church. She was preceded in death by her husband, John Lacko on August 29, 1995. She was also preceded in death by her sister, Virginia Rossman. Members of her family include her two children: John (Nancy) Lacko and Maryanne (Ruben) Nava; 3 grandchildren: Michael (Nicole) Lacko , Ryan (Laura) Nava and Janis (John) Grella; 10 great grandchildren: Caroline, Emilienne, Peter, Vivienne, Henry, Madison, Harper, Sawyer, Jordan and Jackson. Visit with family and friends on Wednesday (Aug 26) from 5-7 PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 AM on Thursday (Aug 27) at St. Monica Catholic Church, 530 West Kilgore. Entombment at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Please visit Gene’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Monica Catholic Church or Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.