Life Story Visitation
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Where food, drinks, and stories will be shared.
A luncheon will follow at church.
Thursday, January 25, 2024
1:30 PM EST
Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery
2003 Mt. Olivet Rd
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
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.
321 Phelps Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Joan Carey, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family, colleagues, friends, and students. She was always willing to go above and beyond to care for others. Nothing brought Joanie greater joy than spending time with her loved ones, no matter how simple the moment, and she treasured every one of them. Her focus and passion in life was building deep and personal relationships with all those around her. Forever loved, Joanie will be dearly missed by those who knew her best.
On May 17, 1944, Robert and Dorothy (Ehlert) Shields of Kalamazoo, Michigan welcomed their daughter, Joan, into their family. Joanie spent her early years cultivating a strong bond with her siblings, Patricia (Pat), Kathleen (Kathy), and Michael (Mike). Her competitive spirit shone through, especially during backyard games like badminton. Her thirst for knowledge was also evident. While her siblings cleaned up dishes after dinner, Joanie would often be found comfortably studying upstairs. She pursued further education at Nazareth College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Joanie as she met the man who would quickly become the love of her life. His name was Phil Carey, and the two first met at the wedding of a mutual friend. There was an instant spark between them. Phil quickly fell for Joan’s sharp wit and fierce independence, and she fell for his charming personality. It didn’t take the couple long to realize they were made for each other. After marrying on October 5, 1968, they honeymooned in New Orleans. The trip made a lasting impression, particularly with the food they experienced. Joanie and Phil came home with some new favorites, such as eggs benedict and bananas foster, which they made many times in the years to come.
All who knew Joanie can certainly agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her family above all else. Her infectious smile grew just a bit larger with each special moment they shared. She and Phil were overjoyed to welcome their two children, Meghan and Brian, into their hearts and home. Steadfast and patient, Joanie provided a safe and loving home. Joanie truly thrived in her role as a mother, and she always credited motherhood as the most rewarding thing she ever did.
Never one to sit still for long, Joanie pursued many activities. Hosting the annual family 4th of July picnic was a tradition that spanned several generations, with Joanie and Phil hosting for the last 20+ years. Even while entertaining a large group of family and friends for the picnic, Joanie made sure to take time to take the kids down to Whites Lake for a swim. Joanie and Phil were also avid fans of University of Michigan football and often invited friends and family to join them at home games. If the Maize and Blue were playing, Joanie was cheering! Perhaps one of her favorite ways to show her love was simply sending greeting cards. Birthdays, holidays, special occasions, or just because, no reason was too big or too small for Joanie to recognize with a card and personal note.
Over the years, Joan’s teaching career moved from being a job to being her vocation. She began at Westwood School before moving on to Westwood Totland preschool and, soon after, to St. Augustine Cathedral School. When she began teaching first grade in 1982, she never expected she’d stay in the exact same room for the next 28 years! However, she did so quite happily, and to the delight of countless students.
Joanie also served as interim principal at St. Augustine for a time alongside her close friend and fellow teacher, Shirley Garzelloni. Joanie artfully balanced the pressures of acting principal while continuing to teach in her classroom full time. Her motivation was simply to ensure the success of both the school and the students.
Patient and kind, Joanie made every student feel special and excited to come to class. She welcomed each child, and parent, with her signature smile. Through the years, she remained close to her fellow teachers, forming special bonds with many. Joanie retired in 2010, though she continued to be the glue that held together her close group of educator friends.
Joanie’s dedication extended far beyond her classroom. She was a longtime volunteer with Peace House, an organization that began as a neighborhood tutoring program and a safe place for children after school. After retiring, Peace House was a place of joy for Joanie. She loved teaching the children there to read and enjoyed simply spending time with them.
Joanie’s faith was a cornerstone throughout her life and provided a foundation for how she chose to spend her time. When her children were young, she volunteered for Meals on Wheels, taking her children with her so they could witness the impact one could have while helping others. She immersed herself in programs through St. Thomas More Catholic Parish, including their Migrant Ministry, and tutored children preparing for First Communion and Confirmation. Through December 2023, Joanie was still volunteering at St. Augustine Cathedral School, serving on the board of the Lakeside Beach Association, and volunteering by serving dinner at the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission.
Joanie was a shining example of kindness and service to her family and her community. Her warmth, caring nature, and acceptance of others define her legacy. A gentle yet strong individual, Joanie’s cheerful spirit and quiet inner strength left an indelible mark on those around her. Her ability to make everyone feel valued could turn a routine grocery run into a cherished encounter. Joanie will be remembered not only for her incredible impact in education, but also for her unwavering commitment to family, community, and faith.
Joan Carey of Kalamazoo, age 79, died on January 18, 2024, after a brief battle with cancer. She is preceded in death by her parents, and husband, Phil. Surviving are her children: Meghan Carey Allada (Ravi) Carey, and Brian Carey; siblings: Patricia White, Kathleen (Stephen) Parker, and Mike (Joanna) Shields; many nieces and nephews; and granddog, Bally.
Please join us at a Life Story Celebration where food, drinks, and stories will be shared on Wednesday, January 24th from 4-7 PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Mass will be celebrated Thursday, January 25th at 11 AM at St. Thomas More Parish, 421 Monroe St, Kalamazoo. Refreshments will follow. Burial at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
Visit Joan’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Augustine Cathedral School, Peace House, or Kalamazoo Gospel Ministries.