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St. Mary's Catholic Church
939 Charlotte Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
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Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Joan Stafford, words such as gracious, hardworking, and resourceful come to mind, however, perhaps what she will be remembered for most is the way she was the heartbeat of her family. She was a woman of faith who was deeply devoted to the people and things she believed in, and although she was a woman of many talents she was so very humble by nature. A devoted wife and mother, Joan was filled with unspeakable joy to witness her family tree blossom to include numerous branches of loved ones who made her so very proud. Life will never be the same without her here, but Joan leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will forever cherish.
The 1930s in America were greatly defined by the Great Depression. Jobs were hard to come by, the unemployment rate soared, and countless American families lost their homes. Despite the great hardship around them, Harold and Frances (Raderstorf) Dille were filled with joy to announce the birth of the healthy baby girl they named Joan in the thick of the winter weather on January 17, 1938. Born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, she was the youngest of three children as she was raised alongside her older brothers, Louis and Junior. Joan also had a sister named Mary who died in infancy.
In many ways, Joan was a young girl of her generation. The Dille family certainly felt the strain of the times as they struggled to make ends meet. Joan’s father was a stone mason while her mother raised collies and worms to help supplement the family income. It was from her mother that Joan learned her lifelong love for animals. She attended local schools and went on to graduate from Riley High School.
New and exciting changes were in store for Joan when she met the young man of her dreams. His name was Ernest Stafford, and he was five years her senior. The couple met on a double date, however, they were not paired up with one another that evening! Sparks flew right from the start, and they were soon dating. With a desire to establish a life together, Joan and Ernest were married on May 4, 1957. He soon got a job in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is what brought them to the area. It was very difficult for Joan to leave her mother, but it ended up being a very good thing as it provided Joan with the opportunity to see a completely new world. Together Joan and Ernie welcomed four children into their hearts and home including Michael, Patrick, Lori, and Lisa. In 1966 they moved their growing family into the home they built on Sandy Cove, and this was the place Joan called home for the rest of her life.
From the moment she became a mother, Joan immersed herself in the role. She was there to encourage and support her children in all of their events and activities. Joan saw to it that they learned to be responsible. She was always there for her children when they needed her, as it has been said that Joan was the emotional center of her home. She was always home for her kids when they came home from school, and their house was the place to be in the neighborhood. In fact, many of her children’s friends also called her “Mom.” Joan was a great listener with advice that was always deeply rooted in wisdom, which is why her kids and others frequently came to her. She was also known as an amazing cook who was especially famous for her homemade noodles, her zucchini casserole and her green tomato and coconut cream pies. Joan’s kids never needed to wonder when it was time for dinner as she would always ring a dinner bell when it was time to come home. She was fiercely protective as a mother.
In addition to caring for her family, Joan kept busy with the things she enjoyed as well. She was an accomplished gardener who was a longtime member of the local garden club, and she had a lifelong love of flowers. Joan and Ernie were both original members of Comstock Community Theatre. They were both active there for many years. Joan was always very creative and a talented artist who had a great eye that she brought to fruition through her various crafts and drawings. She took a weekly ceramics class and really had a gift in that area. Through this class Joan made ornaments for her children every year to have after they moved away from home. She was active in St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and she loved being part of the church community. With a lifelong love for music, Joan sang in the choir there for several years. Ernie was an American History buff, and over the years the family took several extended vacations together while learning all kinds of things about history in the process. These vacations were always packed full every day, and priceless memories were made, too. In 1997, Joan was deeply saddened with Ernie’s death. Always resourceful, she learned to drive a year later.
All who knew Joan Stafford would agree that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out. She was very loyal to the people and things she believed in whether it was her family, her friends or her church community. Joan was resourceful and frugal, which were lessons she taught others by her example, and her zest for life was contagious. Deeply loved, she will never be forgotten.
Joan Stafford, of Comstock, died on Friday, December 4, 2015, at her home. Members of her family include her 4 children: Michael, Patrick (Kelly), Lori (John) Shook, Lisa (David) St. Pierre, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. In addition to her husband, Joan was preceded in death by 2 brothers and a sister. Visit with Joan’s family on Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (375-2900). Mass of Christian Burial will be on Wednesday, December 9th at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 939 Charlotte Ave, Kalamazoo. Please visit Joan’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a personal memory and sign her guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Reverence Hospice, St. Mary’s Catholic Church or the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.