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Life Story / Obituary
Joanne Coston smiled from the heart and radiated goodness in everything she said and did. She delighted in her family and many good friends, and she would stop at nothing to see them happy. A gentle, sensitive soul, Joanne felt deeply for others. She possessed an almost childlike quality in her ability to find joy in everything, but foremost was the family she held most dear who enriched her life in countless ways.
Ellis Island had been an immigration entry point that held many promises for better tomorrows. This was especially true for Timothy and Eleni (Tsertos) Demetral who were counted among the many who emigrated to the U.S. from Greece. Settling in Detroit, Michigan, they were elated to announce the birth of their little girl, Joanne, born on March 2, 1924. Sadly, Joanne’s father died when she was very young. Her mother eventually remarried, and Peter Kanelos took Joanne into his heart, loving and raising her as his own.
Joanne welcomed the addition of two sisters Katherine and Sophie. Ever nurturing, she was a wonderful big sister and always had their best interest at heart. Having grown up in a traditional Greek family, Joanne and her family only spoke Greek and followed the traditions of their heritage. The little girl next door became Joanne’s best childhood friend, and although she only spoke Polish, they somehow managed to play and communicate! In fact, when she began kindergarten, Joanne did not speak a word of English and was apparently quite a little chatterbox who no one could even understand!
Joanne remembered the Great Depression from her childhood, especially the time she was sent to the store with a dime to buy milk and then dropped it on the way home. But the story of her adult life began during a time of economic prosperity as industry and the need for consumer goods rose. While jazz dominated the music sector, men in their pan hats strolled along with swank and swagger and were quite a match for the belles of the infamous Roaring Twenties, the flapper.
During her teen years, Joanne was exclusively involved with her schooling and church activities, and not allowed to date boys. Joanne excelled in her studies, and following high school, she attended secretarial school. After receiving her certificate as an administrative assistant, she landed a job working at Federal Mogul in downtown Detroit as an executive secretary.
Beautiful in every way, Joanne was a stunning young woman. With World War II well underway, life on the home front was all about the war effort, yet like many young women, Joanne took in the sounds of the big bands, and indulged in following the lives of all the Hollywood starlets. Like a gorgeous starlet herself, Joanne sure made a few heads turn her way. On one such night, a young sailor just returning home from the war took notice of Joanne.
Like many Greek families, most of Joanne and her family’s social life revolved around their church community. At the age of 21, while attending one of these functions, Joanne met the handsome sailor, Milton James (Costopoulos) Coston, and her heart was never the same. They made an instant connection, began dating, and the following year on September 22, 1946 they shared vows of marriage. Her best friend from childhood, Chriso served as Joanne’s maid of honor and they forever remained the closest of friends.
The early years of their marriage were exciting and fun. They lived with Milton's father, and Joanne always appreciated how he patiently taught her to cook, and how lovingly he embraced her into his household. While Milton began his career in the aerospace industry, Joanne made a good home for Milton and eventually their children, James, Elaine, and Amy. Fun-filled times were shared visiting the beach for a day of sun with their neighbors, enjoying backyard picnic get-togethers, and simply indulging in all life had to offer a young, growing family. Although Joanne and Milton sacrificed for their family, they would not have wanted it any other way and seeing those she loved happy brought Joanne a sense of pride and joy.
When her children were in school, Joanne returned to working outside the home. She worked as a school secretary before taking a position at Old Kent Bank, (Fifth Third Bank) where for many years she worked in branch management, eventually becoming a bank officer there.
Along with spending time with family, there were many things Joanne enjoyed. She loved pottery and made various treasures, and all hand-painted. A voracious reader, Joanne always had a book in her hand. Her talents also included being a great seamstress. She made many of her children’s clothes when they were young and she taught both of her daughters to sew. Throughout her life, Joanne remained very active and involved in the Greek Orthodox Church. She taught Sunday school and Greek school, and she and Milton were instrumental in building and opening a Greek Orthodox Church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Joanne loved nothing better than sitting with a close friend or family member just talking. She was especially close to her sister, Katherine, and Milton's sisters. She also shared a close bond with her nephews and nieces, Jim and Nancy Kostopoulos, and Rev. George and Angie Pappas. Family was everything to Joanne. It was her greatest joy to watch and help her children and eventually, seven grandchildren grow up. With her skills as a math whiz, Joanne could do complicated math equations in her head and frequently impressed the kids by doing so. She was famous for her ability to recite quickly the entire alphabet backwards. The kids always teased Joanne about having the "accessory gene" in the family. She loved purses, shoes, jewelry, and scarves, and she had quite a collection of them! Joanne loved shopping with her daughters and finding new, little accessories, most of which she couldn't wait to give to one of her girls.
Despite her many interests, Joanne's favorite activities were encompassed by her church and faith, and always her family. She loved family Thanksgiving gatherings, first during the years her children were growing up along with her sister, Katherine's family, and later when her grandchildren were all young and made her giggle with their antics. Christmas and Easter were always celebrated with all the special Greek customs and she always looked forward to the regular family gatherings she shared with Milton's sisters and brothers, as well as nieces and nephews in Detroit and Chicago.
Joanne grew up with the sounds of the Detroit Tigers baseball games on the radio in her backyard. She wasn't much of a sports fan, but somehow this tradition struck a chord in her heart. She loved listening to Greek music, and the music of the 1940s during her early adult years. She and Milton were quite the dance duo, catching the attention of all with their lovely moves at every wedding and christening celebration at the church.
In their retirement, Joanne and Milton enjoyed camping. They hit the road with several different types of campers and enjoyed the peace and quiet of nature. Milton liked fishing, and while he caught and cleaned the fish, Joanne cooked them. For many years they also enjoyed wintering in Florida where together they made lasting friends. In 2001, Joanne’s lifelong dream of visiting Greece, seeing her father's childhood home, and meeting family members was realized. With her daughter, Elaine by her side, Joanne spent two weeks in Greece visiting family. One of the highlights of her life, Joanne often spoke fondly of her time there and how happy she was to have met her cousins and see the special places that she had always heard about.
With Joanne’s love for dogs, their home was never without one. Beginning with her little Cleo and ending with her beloved Gus, Joanne always had a canine companion. Once when her children were young, Joanne was dismayed when she read about a little puppy found abandoned in a snow bank by the city road crew in Muskegon. With resolve, she called to say she wanted the puppy, and when they went to pick it up, Joanne found her wrapped in a small cloth, thawing out on the radiator in the police station. Joanne immediately named her Effie who led a very happy life alongside their other dog, Homer.
Joanne lived for others and tended to their needs with humble pleasure. With her childlike, almost innocent nature, Joanne had the ability to find joy in the simple things. A silly joke, a beautiful flower, a long talk with a close friend, special time with each grandchild, sitting by the lake with a good book, or a special meal, Joanne appreciated all that was pure of heart. She was sensitive and her feelings were easily hurt. She was also known to have felt strongly enough about some things that she could stomp her feet in frustration. A very gentle, quiet, and thoughtful woman, it was in Joanne’s nature to be sweet. She cared deeply about those she loved and with ways all her own, she loved unconditionally, embracing all with equal love and acceptance.
In many ways, Joanne was very innocent. She never took anything for granted, and her appreciation for others was only matched by her immeasurable love. In Joanne’s final days, when she had no idea where she was or who she was with and could not speak a full sentence, she would suddenly burst into childhood songs in Greek, sung with the sweet innocence of her childhood. Gone but never to be forgotten, Joanne’s love lives on in the lives she leaves behind.
Joanne Coston, age 92, died Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at the Masonic Pathways in Alma. She was preceded in death by her husband, Milton James Coston in 2012. Surviving are her three children: Jim (Meredith) Coston, Elaine (Guy) Wood, Amy (Robert) Borman; grandchildren: Noah (Gracie) Coston, Adam Coston, Daniel Coston, Alexander (Sarah) Wood, Dena Borman, Gabe (Catherine) Borman, Ethan Borman; great-grandchildren: Sofia and Chloe Coston, Asher and Miles Wood; sisters: Katherine Battle and Sophie Kanelos; many nieces and nephews. Graveside services for Joanne will be held Friday, July 1, 2016, 10:00 am at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Funeral services will follow the burial at 11:00 am at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler-Kalamazoo, 6080 Stadium Drive; (269) 375-2900 followed by a luncheon in the Life Story Center. Please visit Joanne’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Masonic Pathways, 1200 Wright Ave., Alma, MI 48801.