Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Grace Makela

December 16, 1934 - July 6, 2021
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Visitation

Monday, July 12, 2021
5:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared. The Rosary will be recited at 7 PM.

Driving Directions

Mass of Christian Burial

Tuesday, July 13, 2021
11:00 AM EDT
St. Thomas More Catholic Parish
421 Monroe St
Kalamazoo, MI 49006
(269) 381-8917

Burial will follow at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.



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


Grace Makela was a compassionate and caring wife, mother, grandmother, and friend to many. She lived her life by putting the needs of her family first and selflessly gave of her time and resources to help others in need. Grace treasured any time spent with her growing family especially over the holidays. Her rich legacy of sharing unconditional love for her family will be forever etched on their hearts and her warm presence will be deeply missed.

1934 saw the turning point in the Great Depression in America. New inventions like Polaroid cameras, Scotch tape, and FM Radio marked a prosperous and exciting new direction for our country. This same year, Paul and Mariann (D’Ugo) Barone were elated with joy to welcome their newborn daughter, Grace, to their home on December 16th in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was born into a family of eight children.

Growing up, Grace enjoyed many childhood memories that were typical of the times. From an early age, her dad would often give her a nickel to walk to the local theater to see the latest featured film. They shared a love of cinema. She and her dad were exceptionally close throughout her life. Proud of their Italian heritage, her family often attended large family gatherings, especially on Sundays after church, instilling in her the importance of these relationships during her growing years. Grace was a proud graduate of St. Augustine High School where she sang in the choir. After graduating in 1953, she went to work for a local clothing and stationery store. That same year, she married Donald R. Makela, and together they raised seven children. She always put forth her best in whatever she set out to accomplish.

As a mother, Grace was sure to raise her children with strong Catholic beliefs and many special memories. Sundays were often spent attending mass followed by visits to the Barone grandparents home with numerous relatives. Grace tirelessly treated the holidays as special occasions for her family, leaving many lasting memories for her children. An avid seamstress, Grace made the girls dresses to wear on Easter Sunday or to mass on Christmas Eve; although sometimes Grace enjoyed making the dresses more than the girls liked wearing them. Grace simply wanted them to look their best even curling their hair around her finger. Traditions were important to Grace, particularly a Christmas Eve stroll with her kids through Bronson Park and Christmas Card Lane before going home to bed and waiting for Santa’s visit. Much like when she was a child, Grace treated her kids to see all the big movies that came out in theaters, including The Sound of Music. Proud of her years as a student, Grace instilled in her children the value of education and often took them to the Kalamazoo Public Library and bookmobile, fostering and encouraging their love of reading. She took particular pleasure in giving books to her young grandchildren.

With her adventurous spirit, Grace loved a good road trip. As a family, they traveled every year to Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula in a camper. The kids would take turns pushing mom up the sand dunes and they always came home with beach treasures or interesting rocks they found along the way. Although some road trips involved a few time outs for the kids sitting on the roadside curb, Grace loved them all dearly. At the end of most days, she treated herself to a bowl of ice cream once the kids were fast asleep!

Grace was a woman of many simple pleasures. She spent a lot of time in the kitchen and could cook just about anything. Though she perfected many Italian recipes handed down through her family, she never ate Italian food which earned her the reputation of a “non-practicing Italian!” A wonderful baker, her rhubarb and apple pies were family favorites and famous amongst friends. Her daughters credit her creative ways and hospitality for teaching them how to be good hosts of their own parties once they were older.

Keeping up with her soap operas was a daily requirement, as was reading. In fact, she read so much that finding new material could prove difficult. Persnickety about books, she liked only new editions. She’d often leave the public library proclaiming, “There’s nothing to read!”

Well into her later years, Grace remained quite engaged. She always wanted to know what was going on in her family as well as local and world news. While still raising her children, she became an Avon representative, and in subsequent years, worked in retail. Active in her church life, she enjoyed meeting a group of fellow church members for lunch regularly. She looked forward to their time together and enjoyed catching up on the latest happenings, politics, and stories. She also never missed a Wednesday morning breakfast with her siblings at Rykse’s Restaurant and enjoyed visits from her children and grandchildren. Blessed with an abundant family, she wanted nothing but the best for each and every one of them.

Described as strong and resilient, Grace faced many challenges during her lifetime. She battled breast cancer twice, and in recent years faced some challenging health issues. She remained steadfast in her desire to embrace life. Her resilience in facing life’s difficulties was admired by her children and was a testament to her faith. Her family felt blessed in her quiet presence knowing the commitment she had for them as well as her quiet dedication to her Lord and Savior. She kept her family in her daily prayers and was always there for them. May they lean on the many beautiful memories she leaves behind and may they find comfort in knowing they were loved beyond measure.

Grace Makela, age 86, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, died peacefully on July 6, 2021. Grace was preceded in death by her siblings: Frank Barone, Agatha Barone, Nec Crotty, and Mary Peeters. Surviving are her children: Pat (Tom) McCurrie, Dave (Stephenie) Makela, Sue (Fred) Bosma, Don (Tracy) Makela, Cathy (Carl) Moyer, Jan (Kip) Kerby, and Carol (Eugene) Caldwell; siblings: Laura Hoogerheide, Sam Barone, and Vince Barone; and numerous grandkids, great-grandkids, nieces and nephews.

Please join us at a Life Story Visitation where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Monday, July 12, 2021 from 5-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo 269-375-2900. The Rosary will be recited at 7 PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, July 13, 2021 at 11 AM at St. Thomas More Catholic Parish, 421 Monroe St., Kalamazoo. Burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Visit Grace’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories or photos, and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of your choice.