Wednesday, January 11, 2017
3:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Life Story Funeral Homes - Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren
409 South Main Street
Vicksburg, MI 49097
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.
Kalamazoo Nature Center
7000 North Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Marilyn Durham would agree that she was a genuine blessing in the lives of all who were near. She was gracious and compassionate with a heart that beat to brighten the days of those around her in ways both great and small. A loving and devoted family woman, Marilyn treasured each and every moment she spent with her loved ones near. A longtime resident of the community she loved, she was an intuitive listener, an attentive confidante, and a true comfort with the care she and her husband gave to numerous families and loved ones through their work. Life will never be the same without Marilyn here, but she leaves behind a priceless collection of moments with countless people who will consider them cherished memories for years to come.
It was great to be an American during the Roaring Twenties. With the end of WWI, our country was viewed as a world leader for the first time. As a result, the economy was better than ever before, and more and more people were moving from farms to cities to take advantage of the new economy. It was as January was dawning in Chicago, Illinois, in 1928 that Duane and Effie (Greer) Rupert were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby. The big day finally arrived on January 11th when the baby girl they named Marilyn drew her first breath. Although her parents lived in Chicago, Marilyn’s mother went to live with her sister in Berrien Springs, Michigan, just prior to Marilyn’s birth. This allowed her father to remain focused on his mortuary science degree and Effie to have the support of her sister just after Marilyn was born. She spent the first five years of her life in Chicago, and in 1933, after Duane received his degree, the family moved to Vicksburg to open the Rupert Funeral Home.
Marilyn’s childhood greatly impacted the person she became in so many important ways. Her parents had a lot of grit and determination starting the business in a new town that already had a beloved mortician during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Their example taught Marilyn so much about life. She forever recalled the open house that they had to let people know of their business - and no one came. The poor attendance didn’t discourage them as Duane had a saying, “Find something to laugh at and get over it.” This was a lesson that Marilyn learned from her parents and applied many times in her own life.
In October of 1933, Marilyn started school after her mother sent her there with a neighbor girl and instructions to explain to the teacher that she was a new student. Marilyn was required to take a test. If she could read, she would be placed in the first grade and if not she would go to kindergarten. Upon determining through observation that kindergarten would be more fun, Marilyn swayed the test results to end up where the fun was at! As someone who was naturally social, she settled right in and made friends with ease. As a high school student in Vicksburg she was very involved in drama, glee club, choristers, as editor of school yearbook, and also playing basketball. Marilyn also developed a love for the arts and reading from her parents. She loved the outdoors and doing things like fishing, rowing a boat, and shooting a gun. In addition, Marilyn learned, from her parents, to be both fair and honest and that everything always warrants a laugh.
After graduating from Vicksburg High School in 1946, Marilyn went to Albion College with her sights set on becoming a music teacher. However, after two years she decided to become a nurse and transferred to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
New and exciting things were happening in 1951 as it was the year Marilyn met the love of her life. His name was Sheldon Durham, and they met while tobogganing that January. It didn’t take long to realize that this farmer was much different from the fraternity guys she had been dating during college. They seemed to hit it off right away and just enjoyed having fun together. Love blossomed quickly, and he proposed to Marilyn on St. Patrick’s Day. He gave her a ring in June on the day she graduated college, and they were married on October 13th, marking the beginning of a new chapter in a love story that would span 50 years. Sadly, in December of 1951 Marilyn lost her father.
Shortly after the death of Marilyn’s father, the newlyweds moved into the funeral home along with her mother with the intention of Sheldon going to school to become a funeral director. Together Marilyn and Sheldon welcomed three children including Eric, Becky, and Jon into their hearts and home.
During the early years of their marriage, Marilyn worked as a nurse in both Kalamazoo and Vicksburg. Through this experience she found out that being a good nurse was more than changing bandages and administering medication. In order to be an effective nurse, Marilyn learned that she needed to be an excellent listener while also showing compassion and kindness. Nursing also showed her that people die on Christmas, Sundays, birthdays, and any other day. In fact, people are always hurting and need care, which was something that Marilyn applied frequently throughout her life. After Jon was born she left the nursing field to help her husband build the Rupert-Durham Funeral Home, and the lessons she learned as a nurse served her well in that venture.
From the time she accompanied her father to the homes of grieving families as a child, Marilyn loved to do what she could to ease their suffering. Whether it was as a girl or as an adult she was there to provide a listening ear or to show them another form of selfless compassion. Marilyn and Sheldon discovered that it wasn’t so much about what they said or did, but that it was in how they made others feel that they were truly meeting their calling to the best of their abilities.
Throughout her life Marilyn was a bustle of activity and made it her mission to give others a laugh and a story. She saw to it that the family took a vacation at least once a year, and over time they traveled to hundreds of interesting places, all within the contiguous United States. Marilyn just loved being around people and was involved in so many organizations in Vicksburg such as Girl Scouts, Eastern Star, and the Mother’s Club among many more. Her favorite way to relax was by reading the funnies, which started way back when she sat on her grandfather’s lap and he read them to her. Marilyn cherished spending time with her grandchildren. She taught them so many valuable things such as to live fully in each and every moment. Marilyn also told them, “Try not to waste time by being afraid of it.” Once while walking in an old Maine cemetery with her daughter-in-law, they saw an old tombstone with the words, “She done what she could.” As her family and friends can attest, this was absolutely the way that Marilyn lived her life.
Vivacious, fun-loving, and compassionate are just a few of the words that describe Marilyn Durham, but perhaps the word that paints the most accurate picture of her is the word selfless. She was selfless when it came to everyone she met as she devoted her life to helping others. Marilyn loved to laugh, could tell a story like no other, and had a zest for life that was contagious to everyone within her reach. Truly beautiful on the inside and out, she will be forever missed.
Sadly, Marilyn died on January 9, 2017. She was preceded in death by her parents and her husband, Sheldon Durham in 2005. She is survived by her three children: Eric (Jean) Durham, Becky (Roger) Knapp, and Jon (Jerry Harty) Durham; five grandchildren: Joe (Laura) Durham, Rachel (Tom) O'Hara, Charlotte (John) Miller, Ben (Geralyn Haught) Knapp, and Mark Knapp; three great-granddaughters: Molly O'Hara, Hazel Durham and Amelia Durham; and special friend and caregiver Leasa Hoekstra. Visit with Marilyn's family on Wednesday, January 11, 2017 from 3:00 - 7:00 PM at Life Story Funeral Homes - Vicksburg Chapel, 409 S Main Street (269-649-1697). A funeral service will be held on Thursday, January 12 at 2:00 PM. at the Life Story Funeral Home - Vicksburg Chapel. Burial Vicksburg Cemetery. Please visit Marilyn's' webpage at www.lifestorynet.com where you can sign the guestbook and share a memory and/or photo. Memorial contributions can be made to Kalamazoo Humane Society or Kalamazoo Nature Center.