Friday, May 13, 2022
10:00 AM EDT
First Presbyterian Church
321 W South St
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Friday, May 13, 2022
11:00 AM EDT
First Presbyterian Church
321 W South St
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Burial will follow at Mt. Ever Rest North 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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Helen Ferrando lived an incredible life. She was very kind and a constant source of joy, strength and support. Helen fostered deep and lasting relationships, and her strength, determination, and generous spirit were a source of inspiration for all who knew her. She had a heart for serving those in need. Deeply loved, Helen will be forever missed by those who knew her best.
Helen was born to Andrew and Mary Kozak, hard working immigrants, in Union Town, Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh on September 29, 1927. Her father was a coal miner and her mother worked on the family farm and raised 10 children. Growing up, Helen was very close to her parents and siblings. Raised during the Great Depression and during World War II, while their family farmhouse had no water or electricity, Helen had great memories growing up on the farm in the hills and mountains outside Pittsburgh. Helen learned to meet challenges with both grace and determination from a young age. She also established her strong work ethic during her formative years. She worked on the farm and really enjoyed her job at the company store in town during high school.
After graduating high school, Helen left the farm to work in company offices which she enjoyed. She got married and moved to Los Angeles. One year later, she suffered a tragic loss when her husband passed away after a battle with pneumonia. Helen was widowed far away from home in Los Angeles at just 23 years old. She moved to Cleveland as she had family there. Her siblings, Andrew, Steve, Vince, and Ann, were able to help her through this hard period in her life. Helen was inspired by passion for caring for others and put herself through nursing school. She became a nurse and absolutely loved her job. Helen moved back to Pittsburgh to work as a nurse. She especially enjoyed working at Jones and Laughlin Steel as an industrial nurse during the peak of the steel industry in Pittsburgh. Helen used her medical and nursing knowledge to provide incredible support and help to all of her family members throughout her lifetime. She alway took care of herself and encouraged others to stay healthy as well. She loved sports and exercise, even until recently doing tai chi and walking everyday.
In Pittsburgh Helen met the man who would quickly become the love of her life. His name was Gil Ferrando, and the two first met while attending a Thanksgiving Day dinner in Pittsburgh. According to Helen, it was love at first sight, and she knew right then that she would marry Gil. A couple of weeks later he called. Helen and Gil began dating, and it didn’t take them long to fall in love. After moving to Chicago to manage a printing ink factory, Gil realized that he did not want to be without Helen, so he proposed once over the phone and again a month later when they were face to face. Helen happily accepted and moved to Chicago as well. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Helen and Gil were married in 1962. Shortly after, they settled into a home in Kalamazoo, Michigan, ready to step into their future together.
Early in their marriage, Helen and Gil were overjoyed to welcome their two beloved children into their hearts and home, Anna Lee and Jon. Helen and Gil were great parents and created wonderful childhoods for Anna Lee and Jon growing up in Otsego, Michigan. While Helen worked, she also dedicated herself to raising her children, selflessly leading them by example to be kind, honest, and wise while also valuing what really matters in life. She came to hundreds of Anna Lee and Jon’s sporting events and activities and encouraged education and hard work. The family loved the outdoors. There were RV trips every weekend in the summer, spending a lot of time at Sandy Pines campground on a lake. The RV lifestyle became an inspiration to Jon who founded a highly successful RV retail company.
Helen and Gil loved traveling and once Anna Lee and Jon left home they saw North America in an RV every year for a decade, always driving to see Jon and his wife Katy and their family in Florida. Helen also traveled to Europe. A woman with unwavering deep faith, morals and convictions, Helen raised her children in the Presbyterian Church. Helen loved opera music. Gil was an opera singer and sang in the choir for years.
Later in life, Helen was overjoyed to become a grandmother and also a great-grandmother. She was there to support her grandchildren in all their events and activities as she had been with her own children, and she also joined various family adventures including trips to Disney and Las Vegas among others. Helen was an amazing hostess who loved spoiling her grandchildren, but they also knew they were expected to help out when they were in her home. She was never focused on material possessions, rather, she was focused on gifts that would serve her grandchildren well throughout their lives as she donated to their college funds and also invested money for their future. Helen loved investing and shared that passion and the benefits of investing for the long term in stocks with Jon and others. Helen’s grandchildren will be forever grateful for the high expectations she had for them as it helped shape them into who they are.
Helen pursued many hobbies in her free time. She enjoyed reading and loved all kinds of literature, and she passed the love of literature on to her family as well. Helen also liked football and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and University of Michigan Wolverines. She attended dozens of Michigan games and was always a trooper even later in life to join the pre- and post-game tailgates with her family and friends. Throughout her life she enjoyed spending time in the kitchen making homemade bread and special dishes for her loved ones. Helen was of the belief that good food brings everyone together. She was well known for her sense of style and fashion, and she always looked younger than her years because she took such great care of herself. Unfortunately, Helen endured several major health struggles, including several battles with cancer and ultimately leukemia which she was diagnosed with in January 2022. She never complained and showed great strength and resolve through adversity. Always a fighter, she never allowed her various illnesses to get the better of her and forever remained positive, facing the challenges head on with determination and grace.
Helen was always a pleasure to be around, always welcoming and easy to get along with. It was never about her, she was always up for any adventure or activity. When reflecting on the life of Helen Ferrando, it is easy to see her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. She valued her loved ones above all else, and nothing brought her greater joy than spending time with her friends and family members. Helen poured her heart and soul into everything that she did, and she was always willing to do whatever she could to help others. She was known for her sense of optimism and her extraordinary work ethic and deep faith that she passed on to Anna Lee and Jon and her grandchildren. Though she will be deeply missed, Helen leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.
Helen Ferrando died on Tuesday May 3, 2022. Members of her family include 2 children: Anna Lee Miller and Jon (Katy) Ferrando; 5 grandchildren: Carmen (Nick) Stears, Andrew Miller and Emily, Jackson and Isabelle Ferrando; 4 great-grandchildren Warner, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Vivianne Stears. She was preceded in death by her husband Gil in 2013. Funeral services will be held at 11 am on Friday, May 13, 2022 at the First Presbyterian Church, 321 South Street in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Burial will be in the Mt. Ever-Rest North Cemetery. Visit Helen’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos and sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or the First Presbyterian Church.