Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Laura Jean MacNeill

May 10, 1963 - January 10, 2020
Portage, MI



Friday, January 17, 2020
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM EST
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Food and refreshments will be served.

Driving Directions


Saturday, January 18, 2020
11:00 AM EST
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
1747 West Milham Avenue
Portage, MI 49024
(269) 343-3453
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.

Special Olympics Area 16
50505 Meadow Oak Trail
Mattawan, MI 49071
Web Site

Grace Hospice
2725 Airview Blvd #101
Portage, MI 49002
(269) 743-4680
Web Site

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


Laura was born in Duluth, Minnesota to Marian and D. Gilmore MacNeill on May 10, 1963. As was common during those times for babies born with Down Syndrome, Laura was placed in a care facility shortly after birth and, though her parents maintained contact and interest in her life, Laura spent the majority of her childhood in various foster care homes.

In November of 1967, Laura’s parents moved her from Minnesota to Michigan where her parents had relocated. In Michigan, she resided in a variety of child foster care placements before moving on to a more permanent living arrangement with the Maring family. Once the Maring’s age prevented them from caring for Laura, she moved to Arizona for a few years to live with a foster sister before returning to Michigan to live with her dear foster sister Lucy. Desiring more independence, she then moved in with friends in Portage in a supported arrangement.

By virtue of being herself, Laura was a leader, paving the way for others to be more fully accepted and included in their communities. Despite her diagnosis of Down Syndrome, Laura proved herself to be an intelligent and charming youngster, inspiring people to advocate on her behalf for community inclusion and improved medical care. At the age of 11, a doctor at the University of Michigan advocated on her behalf to have her cardiac abnormality corrected. In a letter dated February 25, 1974 he wrote: “Ordinarily we have not been very enthusiastic about recommending corrective operations for people who are r******* (cognitively impaired). On the other hand, (Laura) is much brighter than many such children and deserves a chance to be as normal as possible.” While planning her move from Minnesota to Michigan at the age of 5, placement at the Coldwater State Home and Training School was being explored. Once again, Laura caught the attention of people in positions to advocate on her behalf. In a letter dated March 27, 1967, the Superintendent of the Coldwater State Home wrote: “…there are no reasons to indicate that Laura Jean’s transfer to a Michigan Mental Health facility would be in her best interest. Institutionalization would not be appropriate.”

In her adult years, Laura remained active through programming at John F. Kennedy Center, MRC Industries, Community Living Services and in retirement, WMU – Senior Day Services. She participated in bocce, soccer, bowling, basketball, track and softball with Special Olympics Area 16. She was a devout Christian and a patriotic American. She loved music and participated in Special Arts where she played piano and bells and was a drummer at MRC.

Laura was a lover of Disney, dogs, chocolate, coffee, ice cream and all things tie-dyed. She was fiercely independent until her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but as was her nature, remained completely lovable and feisty to the end.

On Friday, January 10, 2020 as per her wishes, Laura remained and passed away peacefully at home with the support of many who loved her. Laura was preceded in death by her mother, Marian, and her dear friend, Greg Visel. We are all certain that Greg is waiting for her in heaven with some sort of chocolate treat. She is survived by her father, her sister Heather (Andy) Caine, niece Julia and brother David MacNeill. Also fondly remembering her are her foster sister Lucy Keyser, her long-time friend and caregiver, Marti Haug and her housemate and friend, Jessica Ruckstaetter.

Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Friday, January 17th from 4-6pm at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. A memorial service will be held at 11 am on Saturday, January 18th at the Prince Of Peace Lutheran Church, 1747 W. Milham. Please visit Laura’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. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Special Olympics Area 16, Alzheimer’s Association or Grace Hospice.