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Life Story / Obituary
With a journey that spanned times of great change in the world around her, Laura Stenberg lived a life of purpose while holding her loved ones near. She focused her days on loving and serving others with a warm and genuine personality that drew others near with ease. Blessed to share much of her life with her true love, Laura was filled with immeasurable joy to welcome grandchildren and great-grandchildren into the family. Although life will never be the same without her here, she leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
The year 1929 is often recalled as the year of the historic stock market crash that sent our nation and much of the world spiraling down into the depths of the Great Depression. The days that followed were anything but easy as a soaring unemployment rate affected nearly every American family in some way. It was just prior to this historic day that Cornelius and Myrtle (Wilkinson) Vleugel were pleased to announce the birth of the baby girl they named Laura Marie on October 12, 1929, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The third child in a family of seven children, she was joined in her family by her siblings, Dick, Nelson, Junior, Betty, Mary, and Arlene. Having lived in Kalamazoo her entire life, Laura was raised by her Grandpa and Grandma Wilkinson for the first year of her life. Her Wilkinson grandparents lived in the Kalamazoo area, and her Vleugel grandparents emigrated from the Netherlands to the area as well.
In many ways Laura was a young girl of her generation. She was her father’s girl and loved being with him and his parents. It has been said that they spoiled Laura just a bit. Times were tight during the days of WWII in the 1940s, and since her mother was called to work hard to support the war effort Laura was needed around the home to help with her younger siblings and the household chores. Laura’s father worked as a city bus driver for a time as well as a school custodian. In everything he did he worked as hard as his health allowed him to for his family. Laura attended the Nazarene Church and looked to her Grandma Marie Vleugel as her spiritual guide.
It was while at church that Laura first saw the man of her dreams. His name was Vernon Stenberg, and she couldn’t help but notice him as he pushed open the swinging doors wearing his Navy uniform. He was so tall, proud, and handsome that Laura decided that he was her future husband right then and there. She proved to be right as she and Vernon were married on April 29, 1947, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, once he was honorably discharged from the Navy. Together they welcomed three children including Vernon Jr., Darwin, and Doralee Kay. Sadly, Doralee died in infancy. There was no greater gift in her life than her family, and Laura was actively involved in the lives of her children. She especially loved attending track and cross-country meets, hollering and cheering her boys on. In addition to caring for her family, Laura worked for several area businesses throughout her life including as a file clerk at Dunn & Bradstreet, at Gilmore Bros., J.C. Penney, Turnstyle, and at Bronson Hospital until retiring in October of 1991 after 16 years. On August 3, 2004, Laura was deeply saddened with the death of her beloved Vernon after 57 years of marriage.
Throughout her life Laura was one to keep busy. She enjoyed ceramics, sewing, gardening, and fishing, and she was accompanied by a spirit of adventure, too. When on her first fishing trip after Vernon’s death, Laura finally learned how to put her own worm on the hook of her fishing pole. She chuckled as she lifted the worm and the hook to the sky, showing Vernon that she had finally done it! When she was 79, Laura took a trip to Oklahoma with Vernon, Jr., where they rode four-wheelers. It was also a day to remember when she rode in the sidecar of her granddaughter Cheryl’s motorcycle from Kalamazoo to Baldwin.
All who knew Laura Stenberg would agree that she was truly beautiful on the inside and out. She was outgoing and friendly with the ability to make anyone smile no matter what was going on in their lives. Laura has been described as happy-go-lucky, and even as a patient in the hospital during her last days she did whatever she could to brighten the lives of the other patients. Deeply devoted to her family, she was happiest when surrounded by their love. Cherished by all who knew her, Laura will be forever missed.
Laura (Vleugel) Stenberg, died March 6, 2018 in Plainwell. Laura is survived by her sons: Vernon Jr (Diana) Stenberg and Darwin Stenberg; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren including: Cheryl, Kathy, Hollie, Aaron, Stevie, Alyson, Marc, Karestin and Michael; sister Arlene (Ron) Wolfe and many nieces and nephews. Laura was preceded in death by her husband Vernon in 2004; and by her 5 siblings: Dick (Marilyn) Vleugel, Nelson (Dorothy) Vleugel, Cornelius Junior Vleugel, Betty (Edward) Whitney, Mary Ellen (Burl) Davidson. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Saturday (Mar. 10, 2018) from 1-4 PM at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Burial will take place at Ft. Custer National Cemetery. Please visit Laura’s personal memory page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com where you can share a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to your local animal shelter.