Where Food, Drinks & Stories Are Shared

Tammy L. Hakes

January 28, 1961 - March 2, 2021
Kalamazoo, MI


Life Story Visitation

Saturday, June 5, 2021
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

Raise a glass and share food, drinks and stories.

Driving Directions


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.

West Michigan Cancer Center
200 N Park St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 382-2500
Web Site

Living Water AFC
807 Witters Ct.
Portage, MI 49024
(269) 808-5655
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


Gregarious, happy, and heart-centered, Tammy Hakes lived a life rich in family and friends. As social of a person as they come, Tammy's life was filled with people who loved her playful and talkative nature. Her mother Judy would say, "she loved the sound of her own voice," always speaking her mind with confidence and faith in other's listening. Even though it was as easy to get caught on the sharp end of her wit, it was equally easy to be showered with love, adoration, and laughter. Tammy's sing-song tone will forever ring in our ears as we remember our friend, sister, cousin, niece, and aunt. Though our days with her were far too few, Tammy's love for life will long live in the hearts and lives of those who were blessed to know her.

The early 60s proved a time of much excitement. Popular music included "Tammy’s In Love" by Debbie Reynolds and songs by Herman Hermits, whom Tammy loved to dance to as a little girl. Nowhere was there more excitement than in the lives of Howard Miles Hakes and Judith Ann (Burgess) Nielsen, as they welcomed their daughter Tammy into their family on January 28, 1961, in Kalamazoo,

Growing up on Wheaton Street, the family's corner lot was often the yard where all the neighborhood kids played. Tammy and her sisters, Tracy and Terri, grew up creating wonderful memories that would last a lifetime together. There were lots of cats and a famous Saint Bernard dog named Baron Brutus Von Bourbon, better known as "Brutus." Tammy's childhood was built on family values rooted in hard work and service to others. While her father had a long career with James River Paper Company, her mother was a social worker. After her parents divorced, Tammy and her sisters moved to N. 10th Street with their mother, where they enjoyed lots of laughter. At times, the ladies were laughing so hard they couldn't even answer the phone. It's no wonder these delightful episodes came to be known as Giggle Time at the Hakes House.

The girls did quite a bit of fishing when they were young at their grandparents' house on Pine Lake. They began with handmade poles fashioned from sticks and a bobber. Eventually, they advanced to fishing with real rods in Florida with Grandpa, who insisted they reel in their own fish. Tammy's stomach hurt so bad from the end of the rod poking into her when trying to bring in a feisty catfish. The biggest thing she caught off the dock was Grandma when she hooked her right in her arm! As they grew older, Tammy was often the inspiration for an adventure. Tracy's first long road trip was with Tammy when they teenagers and drove down to Florida for a week. The first time Tracy flew on an airplane was to visit Tammy in Texas.

After graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School with the class of 1979, Tammy attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She worked as a waitress at Colonial Kitchen for many years during high school and up until she moved to Houston, Texas. She returned to Michigan a few years later, living in the Detroit area for a time, before returning to Kalamazoo. She lived in about 20 different apartments over the years and owned four different homes. She purchased a starter house on Parker Street, a lake house on Lake Templene in Sturgis, a house in Texas Corners, and finally, a house on Pinehurst Blvd.

A savvy career woman, Tammy became a mortgage loan officer, dedicating her talents to mortgage brokering, most recently with Apollo Home Mortgage. With a gift for connecting with people and an incredible memory for names and numbers, Tammy passionately helped people realize their dreams of owning a home before retiring in 2017.

Always in perpetual motion, Tammy loved to be active. She loved bird watching, staging houses, and cheering on the University of Michigan football team. Tammy loved spending time with friends watching football, playing Euchre or pool, or playing in a dart league. She enjoyed cooking and canning, a love she inherited from her mother, whom Tammy always credited as the best cook in the world. Many Girls' nights with cooking and drinking wine were enjoyed, Barefoot Chardonnay was her favorite. With a keen palate, Tammy preferred her own cooking over any restaurant's. She loved anything to do with being on the water; there were many days spent boating, canoeing, and kayaking with her friends. Tammy met regularly with friends at the VFW in Kalamazoo, and for decades she alternated hosting an annual New Year's Eve gathering with Doug and Judy Kirby.

Although Tammy kept herself busy, she also enjoyed quieter moments at home by herself. Her home was her sanctuary, and she loved to decorate and tend to it. While curling up with a book or binge-watching Netflix, she could easily view her bird feeders with content. There were also many treasured moments spent at the fire pit in the back yard.

Tammy was a very independent, outgoing, and confident person who spoke her mind. Though she could "swear like a sailor," once expressed, she would quickly find her joyful smile again. Tammy's infectious laugh and positive attitude on life inspired all who were lucky to know her. She would often say "it is what it is" and "such as life." Her nephew Torlando fondly remembers sharing a turning point moment with his Aunt Tammy. At 14, he heard his aunt's wise encouragement. She told him to “celebrate diversity.” Feeling like he didn’t belong anywhere, her words opened his eyes to the vast diversity of the world and realized he was not alone.

Sadly, in February of 2017, Tammy was diagnosed with cancer. With signature tenacity, Tammy outlived her prognosis by three years. Regardless of the ups and downs, she remained positive throughout it all. She often said, "I don't have to like it," and then courageously faced any new obstacle that arose. Her determination was an inspiration to all! She maintained her preferences for good cooking and fine wine. While out to lunch during a sisters' trip to Chicago shortly after her diagnosis, Tammy's face contorted with discontent upon sipping her wine. She promptly called the server back and, with a smile, firmly said, "I don't know what this is, but it's not Chardonnay. The server quickly brought her a new glass, which Tammy, after one sip, enthusiastically welcomed. No matter where Tammy was in life, she always focused on the gift of the moment. Even in her final days, when she could not make her hands work, she and Cousin Lori made each other laugh so hard they couldn’t breathe. She always called that “laughing ugly.”

Tammy Lorraine Hakes, 60, of Kalamazoo, passed away on March 2, 2021.

Without a doubt, life feels less certain in the absence of Tammy's steadfast presence. May we find comfort in our many treasured memories and in the privilege of carrying her legacy forward. With each stranger we greet as a friend, challenge we confidently meet, meal we relish, smile we share, and moment we embrace as a gift versus a burden, we celebrate the many ways Tammy gifted the world. In so doing, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired each of us.

The bond of three sisters is as sweet as it is sincere, proudly carrying Tammy's legacy forward are her two beloved sisters, Tracy Steffler and Terri Stephney. The rebellious trio, often referred to as the Hakes Girls from Kalamazoo, were prone to seeking fun, playing cards, talking late into the night. Tammy always said she picked the best two brothers-in-law: Mike Steffler and Clifton Stephney. Tammy made a family of her friends and children of her nieces and nephews. Also carrying her legacy forward are many nephews, nieces, great-nephews, great-nieces, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Preceded in death by her father Howard M Hakes and mother Judith A Nielson.

The family extends special thanks to those who provided additional care and support: Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, Bronson Commons, Home Sweet Home In-Home Care, Living Waters AFC, plus wonderful neighbors, and many close friends.

Join us Saturday (JUNE 5) from 4-6 PM at a Life Story Visitation at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, 49009 (269) 375-2900 to raise a glass and share food, drinks, and stories. Visit Tammy’s Life Story page at BetzlerLifeStory.com where you can read her Life Story and archive favorite stories and photos. Memorial contribution can be made to West Michigan Cancer Center or Living Waters AFC.