Joan Wallace

February 25, 1925 - May 15, 2015
Kalamazoo, MI



Wednesday, May 27, 2015
11:00 AM EDT
Unitarian Universalist Community Church
10441 Shaver Road
Portage, MI 49024
(269) 324-7262

Lunch to follow the memorial service

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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.

Unitarian Universalist Community Church
10441 Shaver Road
Portage, MI 49024
Web Site


Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.

1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
(269) 349-4961
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Life Story / Obituary


Joan was a loving wife and dedicated mother whose greatest joy was her family, which grew to include the grandchildren and great-grandchildren whom she adored. She was a devoted friend, mother, grandmother, wife, aunt, cousin and sister. She will be remembered for her interest in life, people, politics, nature and her family. She believed in treating people with kindness and always taking the time to know them in a sincere way. Joan was compassionate, devoted, intelligent, and thoughtful. She will be deeply missed, and never forgotten.

Herbert E. Holt and Agnes Howard Holt settled into a home in Highland Park, IL. On February 25, 1925, they had their first child, Joan Holt, then Nancy, Herb and Dave. She had a great childhood in Highland Park, IL. It was a real hometown. She and her siblings would walk to Ravinia Grade School, the skating rink in the winter and rode their bikes to the forest preserve and Lake Michigan in the summer. She especially loved the concerts in the park and was always part of the summer library reading program. She savored reading her entire life. She loved the music in school and remembered all the plays and musicals they put on and the details of the costumes. She went to Deerfield Shield High School in Highland Park and participated in planning school dances and extra-curricular activities and was a Girl Scout. Her girlfriends were important to her; in fact, she kept up a life-long correspondence with many of them. Her father was the controller of the Hilton Hotels and took the train to Chicago six days a week. She and her siblings would listen to the radio while waiting for their father to get home to have dinner. She often said her life was lovely growing up in Highland Park in such a loving household. Connections were formed early in life and always important to Joan, a trait she inherited from her mother Agnes.

She went on to major in Journalism at the University of Iowa and was a Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She was involved in many of the college activities. She was a leader. She met her future husband, Richard Wallace, in Iowa City, through a blind date. He had a car that could be heard coming for miles on campus -- 1929 Pontiac. In her words, “Her heart would skip a beat when she heard that old yellow car coming down the street.” Dick and Joan married on February 7, 1948 in her parents’ home and she was dressed beautifully in a pale, pink-tailored suit. The wedding photos tell a story of how happy they were together.

They welcomed three children: Chris, Chuck, and Ann. While their children were young, Joan and Dick raised their family in Palatine, IL. Both were involved on committees and the formation of a safe, progressive and growing town. She was a member of the League of Women Voters. They lived on Washington St and made many friends with other young neighborhood couples, getting together for parties, cards, and birthdays. Joan worked as a bookkeeper and office manager and enjoyed the camaraderie of her co-workers and the gratitude of her employers.

Joan and Dick purchased a cottage on Lake Michigan near South Haven, MI in 1968 where they would go every weekend from May to October. It was a special place for them to get away. They loved Michigan so much, they decided to move to Kalamazoo in 1971, and established a home decorating and paint business called Kalamazoo Home Decorating Center on East Main. They worked side-by-side for three years and made decisions and worked together every day – this bought them both a great deal of satisfaction. Joan suffered a great loss, when Dick died of cancer in 1975.

She decided to sell the business and started working for a bank as a loan officer. After Dick’s death, Joan worked hard to be independent, making friends, joining the Unitarian Universalist Church and a garden club. Her children were now married and had lives of their own. She was entering the next part of her life as a grandmother and nothing gave her greater joy. She would play with her grandchildren – memory games, hide and seek, puzzles, reading, and beach time. She remembered every birthday – grandchildren, children, siblings, and friends. It was most important to her to write letters and send cards – it was her way of connecting with people and making them feel special. Her siblings and in-laws were a mainstay for her throughout her years. She enjoyed the celebrations, birthdays, and reunions with her siblings and their spouses. She spent many weekends at her sister and brother-in-law’s cottage on Gull Lake. Joan was married to Paul Starkweather from 1977 to 1988.

The Unitarian Church was a central element in Joan’s life. She helped establish the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Portage, heading committees, planning sermon topics, selecting ministers and making phone calls. She attended church on Sunday with her dear friend of 19 years, Joan Young. The church shared her faith and beliefs about life. She developed many friendships through the church, where she felt at home.

Joan moved into Friendship Village in 2003. She was well-known by all the residents and made long-lasting friendships through clubs and activities. Her communication skills made her the perfect choice for becoming the editor of the monthly newsletter – the Villager. She had a gift of inclusiveness and curiosity, which made her a natural at making sure the residents were included, felt special, remembered, and informed. Details were very important to her - from getting a date right, to having the perfect photo on the cover. In recognition of everything she did at Friendship Village, she was awarded the 2012 Volunteer of the Year Award.

Throughout her retirement years, she continued to write – short stories, poems, and journals. She loved the written word and nothing was better than reading a good book, having a discussion about politics, sharing an opinion in a letter to the editor of the newspaper, or writing a long email to a family member.

Joan became more limited after a fall in 2013, which gave way to a decline in her health. She then moved to assisted living at Friendship Village and eventually to the health center there.

All who knew Joan Wallace would agree that she was an extraordinary woman to know and love. She was classy, open-minded, interested in people, and loved her friends and family. Joan was a caring wife and forever considered the day she married her husband to be the best day of her life; and out of their love came the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren she cherished. Joan was always polished and a flawless dresser, right up until the end of her life. Joan was truly beautiful on the inside and out.

Joan Wallace, of Kalamazoo, died on Friday, May 15, 2015, at Friendship Village. Members of her family include her 3 children: Chris Wallace, Charles (Marcy) Wallace, and Ann (Russ) DiNatale; 8 grandchildren; 6 great grandchildren; brother, Herbert (Mary) Holt; and sister, Nancy (Jim) Nordlie, Joan was preceded in death by her husband, Dick, and her brother, David (Nan) Holt. Memorial services for Joan will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 27 at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church, 10441 Shaver Road, Portage MI, 49024 Please visit Joan’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo and sign her guestbook online. Memorial contributions may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Portage.