Nov 4th 1926 - Sep 29th 2007
Millie Zitzman was a woman who was never afraid to tell people how she felt about them. It was easy for her, because she felt the same way about everyone — she loved them all. She was famous for saying “Love ya,” even to people she didn’t know. Millie was a wife, mother, sister, grandmother and friend, but more than anything, she was a woman with unconditional love for everyone around her, a love that lives on today in everyone she knew.
Millie’s story began on a cool fall day in 1926, in the town of Rochester, Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh. Those were such exciting times in this country, the heyday of the Roaring 20s, when Big Bands were king, and Prohibition was the law of the land. On November 4, 1926, Fount and Edna (Gregory) Rowland had even more to celebrate, with the birth of a beautiful baby girl, a daughter they named Mildred.
“Millie” as she was called was the couple’s first-born child, and would eventually be joined by two younger sisters, Margaret Ann and Marlene. Being the “big sister,” Millie had more than her share of responsibility growing up, even though she could be a “pistol” at times, too. As a girl she loved to dance and was equally social among her peers as she was with adults.
Her senior year at Rochester High School, Millie and her family were dealt a difficult blow, when their mother was killed in a house explosion, leaving Millie to care for her salesman father and little sisters, especially Marlene, who was just 6 at the time. She began working at Bell Telephone.
When Millie was in her early 20s, she met a handsome young man named Ellsworth (Dutch) Zitzman, while they were out dancing at a nightclub one evening. They shared an instant attraction to each other, and the sparks flew between them.
The two began dating, and their attraction soon became real love. Dutch loved Millie’s outgoing personality, and Millie loved how generous Dutch was. After dating for a few years, the couple was married in the Parish house of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church in 1947, where she would eventually convert to Catholicism. After the wedding, Millie’s father threw a huge reception for them at the Brodhead Hotel.
The newlyweds settled into a lovely home on a hill in Rochester, where they would raise their family, form so many fond memories, and remain the rest of their days. It wasn’t long before the newlyweds also became parents, as well.
Millie and Dutch were blessed with the birth of a beautiful daughter named Barbara, who filled their lives with such pride and joy over the years. Millie loved being a wife and especially mother to her little “Barbie,” and doted on her family. She was a very involved parent (sometimes too involved!), but also gave Barb free rein of the neighborhood as a little girl. Barb was truly the center of Millie’s life.
She was a terrific homemaker, and loved celebrations more than anything. Birthdays, Christmas … every occasion was special to Millie. She would even write pretend letters to Barb from Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and decorated her home for every holiday so beautifully.
Of course, Millie found plenty of other things to keep her busy, too. She was very involved in the Junior Woman's Club, as a Girl Scouts troop leader, president of the Catholic Youth Organization, and active in the PTA. Millie was a born leader, and had such a genuine, unconditional love for people, who gravitated to her in droves.
Millie also graciously cared for her parents-in-law in their later years, and a few great aunts, too. So when Barb went off to college, Millie decided to study to become a nurse’s aid, the perfect role for her.
After Dutch retired due to health reasons, they switched roles, with him doing the “cooking” and cleaning and Millie going to work the night shift at the Beaver County Geriatric Center, where she remained for the next 25 years. She enjoyed the job, and loved visiting with the people who didn’t get many visitors. “Love ya,” she’d tell them, over and over, until they knew she meant it.
She was famous for her little catchphrase, which landed her in the newspaper, and often landed her in hot water with her family! Strangers, family, friends, priests … everybody got a “love ya,” from Millie. But it wasn’t a catchphrase to her, it was a credo. She really did love you, even if she didn’t know you.
Eventually, back problems required Millie to retire, and she and Dutch began enjoying traveling, from Florida to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to visit Barb and her family, including her adoring grandkids. Her grandchildren will never forget her hugs and kisses, and the $2 she put in everyone’s greeting cards.
Millie and Dutch also enjoyed just spending time together, going for drives in the country, or out to lunch with their many friends.
Sadly, Dutch died in 2004, after 55 years of wonderful marriage to Millie. She was understandably saddened, yet persevered with her family’s love, and the great love she had to give those around her. She held on for a few months alone at an assisted living, before moving to a nursing center in Kalamazoo to be closer to Barb.
Sadly, Millie died on Saturday, September 29, 2007, of alzheimer's, in the Heritage Community Upjohn Nursing Home in Kalamazoo, at the age of 80.
Millie was a wonderful woman, who lived a wonderful life, a life so full of family, fond memories, and love for those around her. She was a beloved wife, mother, and grandmother, a caring sister and loyal friend. She was so famous for her little catchphrase, always on the tip of her tongue, and always from the bottom of her heart. “Love ya,” she always said. We love you, too, Millie. We love you, too.
In addition to her parents and stepmother Gertrude Rowland, she was preceded in death by her husband, and a nephew, Robert K. Brown III. Millie is survived by a daughter and son-in-law, Barbara A. and John C. Fish, Kalamazoo, MI; a granddaughter, Maggie M. Fish, and a grandson, Michael J. Fish, both of Kalamazoo, MI; two sisters and brothers-in-law, Marlene Brown and her husband Robert K. Brown Jr., Madison, Ohio, and Margaret Ann Geist and her husband Harold "Red" Geist, Camp Hill, Harrisburg, PA, and nine nieces and eight nephews, Patty Zitzman Schidemantle and her husband Fred, Rochester Township; Peggy Zitzman Huzak and her husband Edward, Marietta, Calif.; John E. Zitzman and his wife Judy, Rochester; Shelby Snyder and her husband Jack, Lancaster, PA; Terri Brown, Beaver; Laurie Roorback and her husband Bill, Patterson Heights; Ben Brown and his wife Betsy, Beaver Falls; Josh Brown and his wife Daphane, Monaca, and Michael Geist and his wife Jackie, Annadale, VA.
Friends will be received Thursday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. in the WILLIAM MURPHY FUNERAL HOME INC., 349 Adams St., Rochester.
A Mass of Christian burial will be held Friday at 10 a.m. in St. Cecilia Roman Catholic Church, Rochester Township.
Interment will follow in St. Cecilia Cemetery, Daugherty Township.
A Christian Wake service will be held Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in the funeral home.
The family wishes memorial contributions be made, if desired, to the Heritage Community, Memory Care Center of Excellence, 2400 Portage Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49019.