Sunday, June 7, 2020
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Rosary will be recited at 7:30 PM.
Mass of Christian Burial
Burial at Ft. Custer National 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.
Richard and Rosemary Soisson Endowment Fund c/o Catholic Schools of Greater Kalamazoo Advancement Office
1000 W Kilgore Rd
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Please make checks payable to Hackett Catholic Prep.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Rosemary Soisson lived a long life in service to her family, her church and her community. She was the quintessential devoted and devout Catholic wife and mom, making sacrifices every day for her 7 children, her husband and pretty much anyone she knew needed her. Her smile lit up any room and she was constantly complimented on her kind nature and her beauty, inside and out. Mary has lost a fervent “rosary soldier” here on Earth, and her family will miss her daily, but the faith she taught by example lives on in the legacy of her 7 children, 26 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.
She was a Midwest girl, whose parents (Alfred and Mary) hailed from Chickasaw, Ohio but settled in South Bend, Indiana to raise their family. They moved there so that Alfred could work at Studebaker Auto company. Born in January of 1929, she was the youngest of 3 children, with older brother Walt and sister Rita helping her mother (Mary C. Hein) raise their little sister after her father died in a motorcycle accident when she was just 3 years old, at the start of the Great Depression. Grandma Hein kept the family together through some lean times and tried to make their financial challenges fun. Because dessert was a rare luxury, Grandma often served bananas as a treat. Because of this, the first word Rosemary learned to spell was B-a-n-a-n-a. The 3 children grew up just a few miles from Notre Dame’s golden dome, atop which Mary stood, and all developed a lifelong love for both the Virgin Mary and her namesake Notre Dame. She and her sister Rita loved to play with the doll carriage her own children would later play with when visiting Grandma Hein’s home. As a girl, Rosemary sang in the choir (mom’s beautiful voice will ring in our memories with the wide range of lullabies, broadway tunes and everyday “silly songs” she would make up on the spot), and was also a standout student, earning an academic scholarship that enabled her to attend Catholic high school at St. Joseph Academy, an honor for which she was always grateful. While attending school and working at the Ave Maria Press on ND’s campus, she met Richard “Dick” Soisson (an ND student) they went to a YWCA dance, and fell in love. Not long after they met, they went on a double date and Rosemary confided in her girlfriend that “If I ever had a red-haired freckle-faced girl I’d just die!”, unaware that Richard, the red-haired freckle-faced BOY who was her date, was standing close enough to hear her. They were married at Holy Cross church just a few blocks from where she grew up, on March 27, 1951, with her sister as Maid of Honor and her niece (Cathy Hein) as the flower girl.
Rosemary lived most of her life in Michigan, starting out as a newlywed in the central part of the state (Owosso) in 1951, and moving with her first 2 boys to what would be her home for 60+ years (Kalamazoo) just 3 years later. The loving home they built together at 3923 Pontiac brimmed with love and laughter, and spirited exchanges.
Rosemary’s zest for life came through in her roles as wife and mother. Filling these, and dutifully supporting her church (St. Augustine) and the schools her children attended, as well as the one her husband taught and coached at (St.A/Hackett), came naturally to her, and she cherished all that came with it. She was a Girl Scout Troop Leader, member of the Marian Guild, ardent worker for the cause of Right to Life, and served various roles in the Catholic Daughters Association. She never needed (or wanted) to be in the spotlight, instead preferring working behind the scenes. She was at the side of her husband "Coach Dick" Soisson for over 4 decades and 58 years in total, not only supporting his teams, but keeping the home fires burning when he was called time and again to various sporting events in his Athletic Director role. She even hosted weekly "film sessions" for the team captains and quarterbacks to review the game films, and her treats made watching even the worst of losses a little sweeter! She never had the luxury of a “gourmet kitchen,” but the counter was lined up with our custom sandwiches for lunch daily, and the oven full of chocolate chip cookies or coconut pies for us, and whatever else she was baking for the church picnic or bake sale. Traditions for certain foods on certain days of the week were led off on Fridays by the meatless option of Tuna Noodle Casserole, Macaroni and Cheese or pancakes, followed by the return of meat on Saturdays with Hot Dog night. Maintaining order in a household of 9 was no easy task, so she had to stay organized. She kept a ‘little black book’ with notations of favorite foods for each of her seven children, including cake flavor, vegetable, dessert, breakfast cereal, favorite color and birthday dinner, and updated it regularly. She used it to surprise us with our favorite foods and gifts on special occasions. She also kept a color-coded calendar with every important event listed. At the end of each year the recurring events (birthdays, anniversaries, etc) were painstakingly copied onto the new calendar.
Some of our best memories of mom are of her singing and playing the piano. We would take our bath, get dressed for bed and sit at the piano, listening to mom play and sing. The family caroled in the neighborhood on Christmas Eve. Her favorite musical (although she NEVER liked to be asked to choose a favorite in any category) was The Sound of Music. Sunday afternoon sing-alongs with Mitch Miller or Bing Crosby albums, or attending a musical at the Civic or Miller Auditorium with dad or a neighbor brought her so much joy! She loved to go to Christmas concerts with her kids and would light up while dancing in Bronson Park when they had “Big Band” or swing concerts, just as she did with him at countless weddings. Many of her children and grandchildren have carried on the love of music she instilled.
Family movies (Dick and Rosemary were way ahead of their time in having a movie camera which they received as a wedding gift) are filled with vacations, birthdays and Christmas celebrations. Relatives’ homes were nearly always the destination, and mom knew how to make every trip and occasion special! First with Dick’s parents to the Jersey Shore, and then later to local Hudson Lake and Lake Michigan, as well as many trips back to Pittsburgh to celebrate family reunions and anniversaries with Dick’s family, to New York to visit her sister’s family, and to Ft. Wayne, IN, to visit her brother’s family. She would pack up 20+ sandwiches in ziploc bags, fill up the 5 gallon green jug with lemonade and load up the gang in the station wagon (still not sure how we all fit) and somehow keep us all occupied with songs, “car games” and storytelling for 7-10 hour drives with very few stops . . . long before the age of minivans and hand-held games/movie players, she made it work! One memorable standout vacation she masterfully engineered was the Sleeping Bear Dunes trip for which we got the luxury of a Winnebago borrowed from friends. Mom pulled a “Lucy Ricardo” by trying to open the cupboards while driving, and everyone got a kick out of the cascade of dishes pouring out.
Off camera, (everyday life) she loved to play games, especially word games, so whether it was charades or scrabble, or her husband’s favorite -- cards -- the dinner table was cleared to hold whatever “parlor game” was happening that night. Mom understood the value of play and her tolerance for the shenanigans of her 7 seemed endless. She allowed her children to keep multi-day games of Risk going on the dining room table, and never complained when the kids (and later grandkids) used entire rolls of masking tape to build roadways for Matchbox cars all over the living room carpeting.
Her love of language, editing skills, and her gifted writing meant she penned hundreds of memorable cards and letters over the years. Treasured mementos kept in keepsake boxes and in our hearts, are no doubt the written legacy she leaves. Teaching her kids the importance of “thank you notes” was clearly a priority, and her themed Christmas letters were uniquely NEVER braggadocious but always entertaining and clever. She put love into everything she did especially as it related to her children - and despite having so many to care for, she had a knack for making each person she touched feel special and unique. She was very invested in personalizing and symbolism, and always chose unique cards, underlining the key words that applied to the recipient.
Rosemary had a way of making every occasion or event special. In the summer, we gathered in our pjs on the porch steps for bedtime stories with mom. We would chase fireflies in the yard and mom always provided jars to keep them in. In winter, mom always had hot cocoa waiting for us when we finished shoveling the driveway. She cut sandwiches into decorative shapes, and wrote encouraging notes on our school lunch napkins; and when we were sick, she always made her special “milk toast” sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and brought it on a tray with a flower.
Every Friday night during football season, she was in the stands rooting for Hackett’s boys (which sometimes included some of us) on the gridiron and sweating it out for the outcome. Because mom was incredibly humble and a bit shy until she got to know you, she rarely spoke up when “fellow fans” were critical of “The Coach,” so she had to bite her tongue. One time, a relative sitting near her made the mistake of complaining that the game was too much of a blowout (in Hackett’s favor) and she preferred “more exciting contests;” Rosemary let her know quickly that her feelings were not shared!
When the last of her kids was in junior high, Rosemary resurrected her language and office skills and returned to the “paid workforce,” working at Kalamazoo Family Medical Practice for 10 years while making the transition to “empty nester.” One of the most impressive things she did was to learn a totally new computer filing system several years into the job. She was asked to travel to Detroit to learn the system and teach the entire office, and despite being secretly nervous about this daunting request, she went on her first “business trip” and conquered the task brilliantly!
A “job evolution” took place when Rosemary became a grandma in her early 50’s. She didn't travel much for herself, but welcomed all of her 26 grandchildren with joy, love and caring, traveling to help when they were born and treating each baby/child as if it were the first and only.
If you asked Rosemary to tell you about the “Greatest Day in Her Life”, she would undoubtedly tell you there were 8 -- the day she married Dick as well as the births of her 7 children. Her Catholic faith and devotion to the Blessed Virgin were evident throughout her entire life. She demonstrated her love and faith to the last moments of her life, invoking the rosary prayers. She rallied each time one of her children visited, and her final conscious words were to Mary and her children, reaching out to hold our hands, and to tell us “I love you”, and praying the Hail Mary.
Rosemary’s hallmark trait of never complaining continued through the toughest of times. She modeled the lesson of being grateful for what you have, telling her kids that “someone else is struggling more than you are, so offer it up!” Her signature “give me strength” plea always brought a smile to those around her. These served her well as she lovingly cared for her husband (with the help of Hospice at Home) and couldn’t wait to join him, while she managed through great physical pain from head to toe, with barely a wince.
Rosemary’s quiet strength was the perfect compliment to Coach Dick, and we know they are dancing today to a litany of Lawrence Welk and Glen Miller tunes, and will continue to guide the many lives of those they touched.
Age 91, Rosemary Soisson died peacefully on June 1, 2020 at her daughter’s home, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Rosemary was born January 27, 1929 in South Bend, IN, the daughter of Alfred and Mary (Weis) Hein. She worked as a receptionist for Kalamazoo Valley Family Practice and was an active member of St. Augustine Cathedral. Rosemary was preceded in death by her husband, Richard “Dick” Soisson in 2009 and by 2 siblings: Walter Hein and Rita Monaco. Members of her family include: 7 children: Rick (Nancy) Soisson, Jim (Mary Pat) Soisson, Marie Bartoletti, Tom (Susan) Soisson, John (Beth) Soisson, Kathleen (Todd) Courtney and Anne (Randy) Battisoni; 26 grandchildren: Matt, Mark, Kevin, John, Joe and Mike Soisson; David and Michael Bartoletti; Allie, Adam, Claire and Elyse Soisson; Jeremy, Matthew, Mark, Michael, Thomas, Jason, Shantele, Andre, Bryce and Chrysta Soisson; Emma Courtney; Alec, Olivia and Sam Battistoni; 4 great-grandchildren; Maddie, Ella, Hannah and Luke; and many nieces and nephews. Visit with family and friends on Sunday (JUNE 7) from 5-8PM at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900 where a Rosary will be recited at 7:30PM. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Monday (JUNE 8) 10AM at St. Augustine Cathedral. Burial at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Rosemary’s personal web page at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Richard and Rosemary Soisson Endowment Fund at Hackett Catholic Prep or Alzheimer’s Association. Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.