Sep 26th 1919 - Oct 13th 2004
Charlotte Leona Schwass was a strong person - in body and in spirit. A truly unselfish woman, she always put the needs of others first. Although her life was not filled with expensive material things, Charlotte lived a life full of gratitude for what she did have and she always appreciated even the smallest of kind gestures.
Wyandotte, Michigan in the early 1900’s was known as an industrial community. Home of the Michigan Alkali Company (now known as BASF), and known for its ship building during this time, Wyandotte was the home of Orlo and Katherine (Abramowski) Chatfield. The family moved around a bit, but while living in Wyandotte, they celebrated the birth of their daughter Charlotte Leona on September 26, 1919. Charlotte had two brothers – Harlan and John( “Jack”) and a sister Dorothy. Through the course of their moves, none of the children were born in the same place.
The Chatifield family moves took them from Wyandotte to Muskegon and then to Free Soil. As a young girl, Charlotte spent a lot of time with her father. She learned to hunt with her father and brothers using a 12-gauge shotgun. She learned the hard way that if she didn’t hold the stock snug to her shoulder when she pulled the trigger, it would leave a terrific bruise. Undaunted, Charlotte went on to shoot two bucks in her hunting days. Orlo also loved to play Pinochle and passed this love on to his daughter. It was his habit to dramatically “thump” the cards on the table when he trumped a trick. Charlotte learned quickly from her father and became a quiet but fierce competitor. At the Mills School north of Custer, she took part in many Pinochle tournaments and always played to win. After attending Mills School she continued her schooling through the 10th grade at the Free Soil School.
From there Charlotte moved back to Muskegon, living for a while with several other young ladies. She returned to the Fountain-Free Soil area to be near her family. While attending a box social for Mills School, Charlotte met Raymond Schwass – he placed the winning bid for her box lunch. A friendship developed that turned to love and the couple was married at St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Scottville on November 6, 1943. The first few years of their marriage were spent in the Ludington area, but they soon returned to Fountain to raise their family. Charlotte and Ray were blessed with five wonderful children – twins Kenneth and Irvin, and daughters Dawn, Joy and Kitty. Raymond worked at Carrom Industries when they lived in Ludington and then for Litke’s Hardware in Fountain. Charlotte loved being a wife and mother. Her days revolved around her children’s lives and she was very much a part of their growing up. She was active in the local 4-H teaching sewing to many children over the years. She was equally involved in school activities and always had the Free Soil PTA booth at the Harvest Festival and the County Fair. With room in her heart for more, Charlotte also played a big part in caring for her sister’s children, Dolores, Bonnie and Phil (“Dick”). To her they were all one big happy family.
A big, bountiful garden was one of Charlotte’s joys. She was not a fancy cook but the table was always set with a good hearty meal, made from whatever was available. She was good at sewing and was an accomplished seamstress, using her talent to make all of the children’s clothes. The girls shared what they had, sometimes willingly, and sometimes not. They still remember the days of the feed sack dresses. Everything Charlotte crafted was exceptionally well made. Some of her favoriate projects were the wedding dresses she made for each of her daughters. She also enjoyed other handiwork, and was equally good at crocheting, cross-stitch and quilting. Charlotte was passionate about quilting and many of her masterpieces were given away as gifts. When family would call her on the phone and ask what she was doing, the answer was usually “quilting”.
Charlotte and Ray enjoyed their life together. For 22 of their years together they traveled in the winter months to DeLeon Springs in Florida where they had a home. At first Charlotte was homesick being away from family, but over the years she made many good friends and really enjoyed the time she and Ray spent there. When Charlotte was in her 70’s she and Ray both worked at the Stokely Cannery in Scottville. Sadly, her beloved Ray died on July 31, 1996. Filled with an inner strength, Charlotte remained in her home and continued her handiwork and caring for her family as only she could.
Outside her window was a special tree filled with bird feeders. Charlotte was an avid bird watcher and aggressively defended her birds. Squirrels are notorious for getting into bird feeders, but not Charlotte’s. Armed with an air pellet gun, the squirrels didn’t stand a chance. She went through a couple of guns over the years and one of her granddaughter’s once joked that Charlotte was a real “Granny Clampett”.
Charlotte adored her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She attended as many of their school activities and sporting events as possible, always encouraging them and letting them know how much she loved them. When not cheering her grandchildren on, Charlotte could be found playing cards at the Scottville Senior Center, or bingo at the Free Soil Senior Center. Occasionally she even traveled to the Senior Center in Manistee. She was a good friend and trusted confidante to many. Friends would often call to chat, knowing she was a good listener on whom they could depend.
Charlotte Schwass was a strong woman. Throughout her life her children saw many examples of her compassion and strength. They also saw her quiet toughness, never complaining even through her recent illness, not letting on how really sick she was. Her quiet strength and competetive spirit will be remembered and missed by all who knew and loved her.
Charlotte Leona Schwass died October 13, 2004 at Memorial Medical Center in Ludington. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brothers and her sister, and her husband, Raymond. She will be lovingly missed and remembered by her children : Kenneth (RoseAnn) Schwass of Free Soil, Irvin (Mary) Schwass of Byron Center, Dawn (Jim) Jackoviak of Custer, Joy (Dennis) Savich of Free Soil, Kay “Kitty” (Tony) Gajeski of Fountain; her eleven grandchildren: Ken (Jonda) Schwass of Manistee, Donald Schwass of Free Soil, Lisa (Ben) Keck of Oceanside, CA, Tracy Schwass of Free Soil, Michael Schwass of Byron Center, Jim (Janice) Jackoviak of Custer, Jon (Tamara) Jackoviak of Harietta, Melissa Savich of Royal Oak, Denise (Chris) Luckenbacher of St Clair Shores, Jennifer (Jeff) Christensen of Scottville and Sheri Gajeski of Kentwood, and eight great grandchildren.
Friends and family will meet on Friday, October 15, 2004 from 2-4 and 6-8 PM at the Stephens Life Story Funeral Home in Scottville. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Mrs. Schwass at 11 am on Saturday, October 16 at St. John Cantius Church in Free Soil with Rev. Dennis O’Donnell as celebrant. Burial will follow at Fountain Cemetery. Please visit Charlotte’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you may share a memory or make a memorial contribution to the charity of your choice.