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Life Story / Obituary
Nancy Rizzo was a woman with a great inner strength, and an even greater love. She faced great challenges in her lifetime, yet enjoyed so many triumphs along the way. She was a loving wife, doting mother, adoring grandmother, and a friend to so many over the years. Most of all, she was a woman who taught us to make the most of what we are given by her example and never bemoaned her plight in life. Her husband, her children, her parents and her siblings never allowed her to feel that she was forgotten.
Nancy’s story began on a cold winter day in 1946, in the bustling city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Those were exciting times in this country, as our heroes returned home victorious from World War II, ready to claim their share of the American Dream, and the Baby Boomer generation was born. On January 25, 1946, John and Pearl (Morris) Bennett had a baby boom of their own, with the birth of a beautiful little girl they named Nancy.
Nancy was the youngest of three kids in the family, with 10 years between her and her closest sibling, her brother Richard, with an older sister Jan, as well. The family lived in Parchment, before moving up the road to the Westwood neighborhood of Kalamazoo when she was entering high school.
Nancy loved music as a girl, especially The Beatles, and Dionne Warwick. She also had a beautiful voice, and was a member of the choir at Kalamazoo Central High School and the church choir. She loved to go sledding in wintertime and fishing with her father during the summer.
After she graduated from Kalamazoo Central in 1964, Nancy stayed close to home and began attending Western Michigan University in her hometown. The following fall, the wide-eyed sophomore met a handsome grad student named Vic Rizzo, who had just moved to Kalamazoo from the Upper Peninsula after getting his bachelor’s degree from Michigan Tech. They met at the Wesley Foundation, a Methodist student organization, and the sparks flew between them. Vic had come to WMU to study Chemistry, and he found it in Nancy!
The following summer, the happy young couple was married, on August 20, 1966, at the Westwood Methodist Church, where Nancy was an active member. The newlyweds lived in Western’s married housing for a time. Nancy worked part-time in the Young Adult section of the Kalamazoo Public Library, while she was working on her Library Science degree at Western. Vic began his career at Upjohn and they moved into their new apartment. Soon she had more on her mind than books, though.
It wasn’t long before the couple became parents, with their first child, son Charles, born in 1969. Two years later they moved to Gobles and baby Barbara rounded out the family. Nancy couldn’t have been happier, or prouder.
The good news was tempered by the bad, however. After her son was born, she began to develop some undiagnosed health issues, and after Barbara was born, Nancy learned she had Multiple Sclerosis. This was a very uncertain and difficult time. There were so many things Nancy loved, most of all, her family. She remained a wonderful wife and mother, who truly embraced motherhood. She took both of the kids to the YMCA to teach them to swim. She always had her kids with her in the kitchen, where she made her world-famous chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies, often the favorite treat she took to Cub Scouts as their Den Mother.
Nancy enjoyed tending to her lovely flower gardens (and was a Leisure Hours Garden Club member), and loved to tool around the yard in her golf cart giving the neighborhood kids thrill rides down the hills. Nancy and her family raised beautiful show rabbits as it was something they could do together and were members of the Mall City Rabbit Breeders Club. Nancy was a lifelong animal lover and always had a Siamese cat as a loyal companion, too.
They also went to Chicago often as a family, eating a good meal with a good glass of wine (always one of her favorite things to do). Being the music lover she was, she loved to go to concerts such as The Moody Blues and Chicago, Yes, and “1964-as the Beatles”. Music was an integral part of her life.
Nancy and Vic enjoyed having friends over for cards, some wine, and good conversation. As her disease progressed, they became very active in an MS support group, which became their primary social outlet. Vic was chairman of the local MS Chapter for eight years.
Slowly, the disease progressed. Nancy’s children remember how their mother first steadied herself with the walls as she walked, followed by a cane, and eventually, her Amigo electric wheelchair. Through it all, she was determined to make the most of it. Vic’s job allowed him to travel to scientific meetings and Nancy often went along, even tooling around San Francisco’s hilly streets in her Amigo!
Eventually, Nancy’s health declined to the point she needed full-time care, and she moved to Tendercare of Kalamazoo in 1989. It turned out to be a very positive place for her, as her social circle widened once again. She enjoyed watching her favorite shows, MASH and Little House on the Prairie, or reading a romance novel or two. She also enjoyed doing cross-stitch, bingo, and especially wine at Happy Hour on Fridays ( unfortunately they did away with the booze after the first five years ). She was the President of the resident council for several years at Tendercare.
Most of all, she loved visiting with her family, especially when her grandchildren arrived. She was such a proud, loving grandmother, and a visit from the kids always brightened her days. She loved her family, and her family loved and adored her as a wife, daughter, sister, mother and grandmother. Though her health declined over the years, her spirit and outlook remained positive. Family visits with Nancy never failed to spark a smile or a laugh.
Nancy remained at Tendercare the rest of her life, 18 years, until she sadly died on Monday, November 5, 2007, at the age of 61.
Nancy was such a wonderful woman, a woman with a great inner strength, and an even greater love. She faced great challenges in her lifetime, yet enjoyed so many triumphs along the way, none greater than her loving family, who carry her life and love with them today. She will be greatly missed.
Died Monday November 5, 2007 at Tendercare of Kalamazoo where she resided the past 18 years. Nancy was born January 25, 1946 in Kalamazoo the daughter of John and Pearl (Morris) Bennett. Learn more about Nancy, view her life story film and visit with her family Thursday from 4:00-8:00 pm at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo 6080 Stadium Drive 375-2900. Services and interment will take place privately. She was preceded in death by her parents and a sister, Jan Archer. On august 20, 1966 she was united in marriage with Vic Rizzo who survives. Also surviving are her children; Charles (Kim) Rizzo of Smyrna, TN, Barbara (Frank) Thompson of Wayland, MI, 3 grandchildren; Anelia Victoria Rizzo, Kyle and Brooke Thompson, one brother, Richard (Barbara) Bennett of Florida, and one brother-in-law, Brian (Ana Fe) Kangas of Delavan, WI. Please visit Nancy’s personal webpage at www.lifestorynet.com where you can read her Life Story, share a favorite memory or photo, sign her online guest book or make a memorial contribution to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or Hospice Care of SW MI.