Friday, May 15, 2015
9:30 AM to 11:00 AM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren
120 South Woodhams Street
Plainwell, MI 49080
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.
Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes
901 Portage Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Otsego Public Library
401 Dix Street
Otsego, MI 49078
282 12th Street
Plainwell, MI 49080
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
People who knew Gerene Cronen were blessed – by her unconditional love and her generosity of spirit. She was compassionate and generous out of a heart that was filled with unwavering faith. It was easy to see that Gerene treasured her family and that it was with her beloved husband by her side that she felt more happiness than she had ever known. Those she leaves behind will consider themselves blessed for having been given such an extraordinary woman to have been touched by.
1925 found the country right in the middle of the Roaring Twenties. For those living in big cities, it was a time of flappers and speakeasies; for those living in small towns, it was a time of hard work and raising families. Otto and Avis (Ayers) Berkel lived in the town of Allegan, Michigan, and on November 9, 1925, they were pleased to announce the birth of their daughter, Gerene Dawn. Gerene was the oldest of four children in her family, and along with her siblings, Barbara, Bruce and Roberta, they were raised in their family home in Allegan. She received her education in the area schools, and went on to graduate with the class of 1943.
Soon after graduation, Gerene went to work as the legal secretary to real estate attorney, Ethol Stone, of the Wilkes and Stone Law Firm. She really got to know real estate law in the 25 years she worked for him, so much so, that as Mr. Stone aged, Gerene began doing some of the legal work and he just signed off on it. One day, in 1961, a client came into the law office by the name of Francis W. Cronen (or Fritz), and he was smitten with Gerene. Fritz wasted no time asking Gerene out on a date and with that, their love story had begun. The two were soon married and spent the next 33 years together, sharing many wonderful memories. Fritz brought more than just his love into Gerene’s life though; he had a 17 year old son named Lyndon, who wasn’t real thrilled about having a new mom in the house. It wasn’t long though before he grew to truly love Gerene, and looking back said “if he had to have a stepmother, he could not have had one any kinder, loving or better in anyway than Gerene.”
It was easy to see that Gerene considered it pure joy to care for her husband and family. She loved cooking for them, and was most famous for her jell-o salads and baked goods - her rolls and pies were “to die for.” When Gerene was later blessed to be a “Gram” to her grandchildren, Maria, Monique and Bryan, she cherished every moment she could spend with them. She had special candy drawer in the house and her grandkids would go home with handfuls, but it was always refilled again next time they came. Life got only sweeter when her family grew to include 11 great grandchildren, who she could spoil with love too.
Gerene and Fritz were quite a team and did just about everything together. Whether it was fishing on Hamlin Lake near Ludington and going on hunting trips (though Gerene didn’t actually fish or hunt), to relaxing at their lake property near Otsego, they enjoyed being together. Traveling was also something they loved to do and had been to many states throughout the U.S. and even took some trips abroad. Even their 25th wedding anniversary was celebrated on an Alaskan cruise. In her quieter moments, Gerene loved to tend to her flowers and spent countless hours watching and feeding the birds. She even studied up the different kinds of birds she saw and knew many details about them. Gerene’s deep, abiding faith was also a hallmark of her life; she prayed fervently for everyone and read the Bible daily. Sadly, Gerene developed dementia later in life and went to live at Amber Way, where she could get special care. It was here that she passed away on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, at the age of 89.
Gerene was a woman cut of the warmest, kindest cloth, who always volunteered her time, her effort and her love. She had a way about her that made others feel warm and at ease, making them feel welcome and blessed to be part of her life. She truly had a genuine, caring heart, and everyone who spent time with her felt the warmth of her presence. It was said that “if there was a first ballot for entering heaven, Gerene would have it.”
Visit with Gerene’s family on Friday, May 15, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. at Life Story Funeral Homes, Plainwell; 120 S. Woodhams, where a funeral service will be held immediately following at 11:00 a.m. with interment following at Hillside Cemetery.
Gerene was preceded in death in 1994 by her husband, Francis, her parents, Otto & Avis Berkel, her sister, Roberta Berkel, and niece, Suzy Berkel. She is survived by her stepson, Lyndon (Carmen) Cronen of Portage; her grandchildren: Maria (Luis) Suarez of Colombia, Monique Stevens of Illinois and Bryan (Daniella) Cronen of Portage; 9 great-granddaughters and 2 great-grandsons; her sister, Barbara Bolinger of Portage; her brother, Bruce (Marcie) Berkel of Oregon; niece, Lisa (Doug) Ullmer, and their sons of Oregon; and her cousin, Charles (Nell) Freehouse. Visit www.lifestorynet.com where you can read Gerene’s complete life story and sign her guestbook. Memorial donations may be made to Otsego Public Library, Christian Neighbors of Otsego/Plainwell, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or Loaves & Fishes of Kalamazoo.