Gladys Kozar

September 5, 1916 - August 2, 2015
Kalamazoo, MI



Wednesday, August 5, 2015
5:00 PM to 8:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
Kalamazoo Location
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
(269) 375-2900

A Time of Sharing will begin at 7:30PM followed by a Rosary.

Driving Directions


Thursday, August 6, 2015
10:00 AM EDT
St. Augustine Cathedral
542 West Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-5147
Web Site


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.

Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan
222 N. Kalamazoo Mall, Ste. 100
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 345-0273
Driving Directions
Web Site

Grace Valley Assisted Living
3530 Douglas Avenue
Kalamazoo, MI 49004
(269) 370-0857
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


It was easy to love Gladys Kozar. Through her warm and genuine smile to the way she lovingly accepted everyone into her heart and home, Gladys was beloved by all. She was an unassuming and humble woman, yet she possessed a confidence all her own as the cherished matriarch of the family she treasured. A loving role model filled with a wonderful sense of humor and unending care, she will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.

The year 1916 fell into a decade of advancement and struggle as the U.S. was advancing as a world power while heavily engaged in World War I. Although the Michigan city of Kalamazoo was far removed from the chaotic battlefields of war, it was during these uncertain times when James Dean and Gladys Irene Firestone welcomed the blessed birth of their little girl, Gladys Alberta into their arms on September 5, 1916.

Gladys enjoyed a childhood typical of her generation. Her father was a dry cleaner and her mother was a talented seamstress. They made their home in the downtown area of Kalamazoo which allowed Gladys to walk wherever she needed to go. Gladys attended Washington Elementary School and went on to graduate from Kalamazoo Central High School in 1934 where she enjoyed the friendships of many.

As a young woman, Gladys was quite taken by the glamour of the movie stars. She loved Frank Sinatra, and even saw him several times. When Elvis became a hit, she saw him at the State Theater. Gladys loved all the singers, actors and the big name movies of her generation. She knew all the movie stars by name, and each of the films they starred in. With this wealth of knowledge, Gladys could beat anyone at trivia on the subject matter.

Gladys was affectionately known as “Muggy” and “Red Head” which was a large part of her outgoing and fun personality. For William (Willie) Kozar, the “red head” certainly caught his attention one day while at a drinking fountain at the corner of Oakland and Lovell. After taking notice of her when she walked by, he made a vow that he was “going to marry that red head”. The two became acquainted, and began dating. They enjoyed dancing at Lime Kiln Lake, now part of Parkview Hill with the rope swing, and fell deeply in love. On November 16, 1935, Gladys and Willie were married in a very humble yet quick ceremony at the St. Augustine Catholic Church rectory during William’s lunch hour.

To support his new bride, Willie worked as a shoe salesman in the early years, and Gladys was just as happy making a good home for him. In 1938 they began a family of their own which came to include seven wonderful children. While Willie worked hard to support their bustling household, Gladys raised their family with love and understanding. She had a way all her own of making them each feel special, and set aside time creating lasting memories. Her love for the big screen remained and she often took the kids to the movies. During the summers they’d drive to Florida to stay in a hotel and swim where fun times were enjoyed by all. Gladys was also sure to see that all of her children graduated from St. Augustine’s and Hackett High School.

Gladys was a very domesticated woman who loved serving her family with pride and affection. She never felt resentment being at home with the kids, and activity surrounded her. Like her mother before her, Gladys was a talented seamstress and made all of their clothes. And whether it was a family member or a wayward family friend, her doors were always open and her arms outstretched with kindness. No one ever visited Gladys without being offered a cup of tea before they began a conversation. When it came to cooking, Gladys knew how to make things go a long way. She could whip up enough mashed potatoes to feed an army, and then some! Sunday dinners always included chicken and Gladys’ famous mashed potatoes. Her kitchen was filled with loads of leftovers, and as always, scrumptious desserts and chocolate.

When the kids were growing up, Gladys and Willie often got together with their group of friends to play cards. Gladys had a sharp mind for numbers, and was an excellent, and serious, card player. She was especially passionate about bridge, pinochle, euchre and canasta, and could memorize all the cards. That was about the only time she was ever so serious as her great sense of humor and love of laughter was enjoyed by all. A joy to share her company, Gladys was a good tease and could tell her own share of jokes, too.

Willie had his own insurance agency, the Bill Kozar Agency, and Gladys helped with the office work. The business provided well for their family, and due to Willie's many awards, he won many trips which afforded them the opportunity to travel all over the world. Gladys loved her soap operas, and like two-peas-in-a-pod, they’d usually watch them together. They both loved basketball, especially the Pistons and Larry Bird.

In her free time, Gladys served as a volunteer at St. Augustine’s. She loved Gilmores’ sidewalk sales downtown, and frequently shopped at Meijer. Powder blue was her favorite color which was evident in her clothing and home décor. An avid reader, she read novels for entertainment and biographies of movie stars. In the 1950s she was quite fond of the Reader’s Digest. When her eyesight began to deteriorate over ten years ago, she started listening to books on tape. For Gladys, the Kozar family Christmas and Labor Day parties were by far the best family gatherings, but she always looked forward to any time spent with those she loved.

Gladys and Willie participated in raising most of their grandkids, and Gladys did so until recently. She absolutely adored babies, and her grandchildren meant the world to her. Not a special day went by without Gladys sending a card, letter or gift to her grandchildren. She was a loving and kind example to all the children in her life, young and old alike. Even as her children grew to have families of their own, Gladys was a true friend to her kids. As well, each of her grandchildren was especially close to Gladys, and in them she found her greatest joy.

A happy woman, Gladys lived fully and completely at every opportunity. Everyone loved her fun-loving nature, and having the best giggle, her love for laughter. Although a humble woman, she took pride in her family, and encouraged them along the way with a quiet love, and compassionate understanding. An unassuming “red-head” until the day she sadly died, she will be remembered with joy and forever missed by those who knew and loved her.

Gladys Alberta (Firestone) Kozar, of Kalamazoo, died peacefully Sunday evening, August 2, 2015, after a day surrounded with love and all seven of her children. Gladys was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, William in 1999; a sister, Deana Boodt; stepbrother, James Firestone; and a step-granddaughter, Bonnie Brush. She is survived by her seven children: Sandra Irene (William) Shauman, Sharon Annette (David) Whited, Sidney Sue (Robert) Brush, William George (Ellen) Kozar, Laurie Ann Kozar (Sara Handlan, deceased) Stephanie Lynn (Daniel) Watson, Mary Elizabeth Morgan; 18 grandchildren: Sprig, Blake, Wendy, Jennifer, Terra, Kelly, Todd, Daniel, Robby, Danielle, Marcus, Kristin, Brian, Jacob, Sammy, Henry; step-grandchildren: Beaumont and Robert III; 27 plus great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren; a stepsister, Betty Mae Millard. The family would like to thank her special caregiver, Liz Baker; and Crystal Dexter and the staff at Grace Valley where Gladys resided this past year.

Visit with Gladys’ family and friends on Wednesday from 5-8 PM at the Life Story Funeral Homes, Betzler–Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Drive (375-2900), where a time of sharing will begin at 7:30 PM followed by a Rosary. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Thursday, 10:00 AM at St. Augustine Cathedral. Following the mass, burial will take place at Mt. Ever-Rest Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations made in her memory to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan, or Grace Valley Assisted Living. Please visit Gladys’ personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo of Gladys and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home.