Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Maria Vanderploeg

July 24, 1948 - November 23, 2022
Kalamazoo, MI

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Visitation

Friday, December 2, 2022
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM EST
St. Joseph Catholic Church
936 Lake Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Mass of Christian Burial

Friday, December 2, 2022
11:00 AM EST
St. Joseph Catholic Church
936 Lake Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Web Site

Contributions


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.

Edison Neighborhood Association
1816 Washington Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Web Site

Disability Network of Southwest Michigan
517 E Crosstown Parkway
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Web Site

Flowers


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

Ambati
1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
Driving Directions
Web Site

Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
(269) 657-6256
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


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With a warm smile and a kind heart, Maria Kula Vanderploeg lived a life rich in faith and friends. Both intelligent and wise, Maria enjoyed good conversations and made friends easily. Well known for her strong opinions, she was equally known for liking to learn others' ideas too. She was humble and kind and met people where they were in life, listening with her whole heart and consciously helping people feel heard and special. A treasured companion and friend to many, Maria will long be remembered and so very missed.

While displaced after WWII, Frank and Margaret Kula welcomed their firstborn child, Maria, on July 24, 1948, in Germany. Maria's father was Polish and had been a prisoner of war in Germany. Her mother, living in Germany, had German and Czech heritage. In 1951, the family of three was sponsored by St. John Cantius church in Free Soil, Michigan, and immigrated to the United States through Ellis Island. Once settled in their new country, Frank and Margaret welcomed four more children to their family. Maria was a wonderful big sister to Frank Jr, Tom, Kristine, and Michael.

Maria's early school years were challenging as she and her parents spoke German and Polish in their home, and she didn't learn fluent English until after she started school. Using cereal boxes and the school reader, Maria taught herself to excel in English. Though teased during this time by her peers for her language, she worked hard at being a good student. With signature determination and practice, in just a few years, she was reading well beyond grade level and called upon to help other students with their studies. These early experiences led to a lifelong love for words, passion for learning, and confidence.

After graduating from Manistee Catholic Central High School with the class of 1966, and being awarded several scholarships, Maria moved to Ann Arbor to study at the University of Michigan. Though she initially had her sights set on becoming a doctor, she quickly discovered it was not her calling. Instead, she focused on social sciences. In time, she earned a degree in anthropology from Ontario Teachers’ College in Canada.

Maria came to Kalamazoo from Canada but later wanted to travel to south Texas and New Mexico, where she worked as a house parent at a foster care home. After spending some time in Boulder, Colorado, she decided she didn’t like living in the mountains and wanted to come back to Michigan. She chose to come back to Kalamazoo. Maria used her training in anthropology to secure a position as accounts administrator for the local site of Detroit College of Business, even though she had no actual accounting experience. She immediately went to the library and studied and learned what she needed to know how to correctly account for the receipt of GI bill government payments and dispensing of benefits to all the students. Her books balanced to the penny every month. When the IRS came to audit, they were amazed at the accuracy and neatness of the records.

She later worked as a deputy for the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department at the county jail. Her intellect, discipline, and commitment ensured that she was successful in every job and endeavor she pursued and was well liked among her co-workers.

Introduced by mutual friends, Maria's first meeting with Pete Vanderploeg could have gone better. Despite the disappointment, Pete asked her on a date, and she agreed. Fortunately, that date went well and led to a two-year courtship. Pete was drawn to Maria’s intelligence, warmth, and sense of humor. Maria always said that she liked Pete for his good looks! With a desire to share the future, the couple married on June 27, 1981, at St. Ann Church in Augusta, officially beginning their 42 happy years of marriage.

A woman of many interests, Maria especially loved to cook. She could make everything and was exceptionally good at scaring things up from the cupboard and leftovers to make a delicious meal. She had a magic touch in the kitchen, and her Polish foods were unrivaled. Maria also loved reading and was open to all genres. While she always wanted to play an instrument, she never learned one, but she loved to listen to 50s and 60s Rock and Roll. A longtime member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kalamazoo, Maria's faith was very important to her. A wonderful friend to many, those closest to her valued her wonderful ideas and loving ways. In Maria's heart, others always found a sense of home.

Ten years ago, Maria had a stroke. With her love of words and unwavering determination, she used word games to rehabilitate herself. Her spirit proved indomitable, and she enjoyed many great days, living life to the fullest. Sadly, she suffered another stroke on November 16, 2022, and spent her final days at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo. With Pete at her side, Maria died peacefully.

Though life feels less certain in the absence of Maria's steadfast companionship, we are comforted by our many treasured memories. In countless ways, Maria embodied her faith and showed us how to live a wholehearted life. Her legacy will be proudly carried forward by those she so dearly loved, and in this way, she will continue to inspire others as she so inspired each of us.

Maria Kula Vanderploeg, age 74, of Kalamazoo, died on Wednesday, November 23, 2022, at Rose Arbor Hospice. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 am on Friday, December 2, 2022 at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 936 Lake Street. Her husband Pete will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Visit Maria's webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories and photos and sign her guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Edison Neighborhood Association or the Disability Network. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900