Nelda S. Hayes

October 19, 1937 - June 1, 2011
Portage, MI



Tuesday, June 7, 2011
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Rupert, Durham, Marshall & Gren
Portage Location
5975 Lovers Lane
Portage, MI 49002
(269) 344-5600

A Rosary will be recited at 8:00 p.m.

Driving Directions


Wednesday, June 8, 2011
11:00 AM EDT
St. Catherine of Siena
1150 West Centre Street
Portage, MI 49024


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.

West Michigan Cancer Center
200 North Park Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
(269) 382-2500
Driving Directions
Web Site


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

VanderSalm's Flipse
1120 S. Burdick
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
(800) 232-7134
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


All who knew Nelda Hayes would agree that she was a bundle of energy who never stopped giving to those around her. With a special place in her heart for children, she demonstrated that being a teacher is not so much about covering the lesson plans, but it is more about making learning come to life while equipping students to always do their best. When blessed with children of her own, Nelda gave her children both the roots and wings they needed to become the adults who were her greatest source of pride and joy. A woman who treated everyone with kindness, graciousness, and unconditional love, Nelda leaves us with a priceless collection of memories and much to aspire for.

The thirties gave us some of the most trying times our nation has ever seen. The hardship of the Great Depression left countless Americans without jobs and without homes, but the American spirit was not so easily broken. The completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 made our hearts swell with pride and with the technology in the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we received a glimpse into what was to come. It was during this unprecedented time that there was great joy for one young family from South Lyon, Michigan, as they welcomed a healthy baby girl into their hearts and home. Nelda Sue was ushered into the arms of her adoring parents, Wilson and Esther (Bidwell) Lane, and was the youngest of four children in her family including her sisters, Lois and Arva, and her brother, Darrell. Tragedy struck early in young Nelda’s life with the death of her father when she was just three years old.

For her education Nelda attended local schools. Her high school years found her at South Lyon High School where she participated in several plays. Without her father to provide for their family, Nelda took a part-time job as a waitress at Hill Top Restaurant as soon as she was old enough.

After graduating from high school, Nelda went on to Western Michigan University where she majored in elementary education. She eventually earned her master’s degree in education as well. As a college student Nelda worked in the cafeteria, but it was at the student union that she met the young man with whom she would share a lifetime of love. His name was Robert Hayes and interestingly enough, he also worked in the cafeteria. As the story goes, they were smitten with each other from the beginning and not long after they met, the couple found themselves deeply in love.

With a desire to build a life together, Nelda and Robert were united in marriage in August of 1959 at the St. Thomas More Student Parish by Fr. Don Taylor. As a young bride, Nelda focused her attention on her teaching career. She loved her work as a kindergarten teacher at Walled Lake, Otsego, and later at Portage Schools. Much of Nelda’s career found her at Portage Central Elementary and Woodland Elementary.

When Nelda and Robert were blessed with their first of four children, she easily set her career aside to shift her focus to caring for her own children. Teresa, Todd, Julie, and Joni more than kept their mother busy at home. Nelda supported their children in everything they did by attending every school and sporting function they were a part of. She also came alongside her children, too, serving as both a leader in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. When she married Bob, Nelda converted to Catholicism and as a result, it was important that they attend services as a family at both First St. Augustine’s and St. Catherine’s where they were members for years.

Throughout her life, Nelda and Bob loved traveling. Together they went on 15 cruises, traveled around the tip of South America, camped on safari in Africa, and visited all 50 states as well as took multiple trips around the globe. Nelda did the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk in Australia and flew to Europe on the Concorde and came home on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship. Unforgettable memories were made the time she swam in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Their love for adventure kept them closer to home at times, too, as Nelda loved the North Beach in South Haven, and they also had a time share in Traverse City for many years.

When she was home Nelda was always keeping busy doing something. As soon as grandchildren began arriving, doting over them became a favorite activity. With a passion for cooking, Nelda took many classes with Deanna House, a local cookbook author. She certainly had her favorite foods, but never shied away from trying something new. Holidays and special occasions were never complete without Nelda’s cut-out sugar cookies that were appropriately chosen for the occasion, and she also loved canning fruit and making jams and jellies the old fashioned way – with wax seals. In fact, Nelda was even known to make jelly with her kindergarten classes! She had a bit of a sweet tooth and often ate a smaller meal to ensure that she would have enough room left for dessert. It would be an understatement to say that she enjoyed shopping as the truth of the matter is that Nelda could out shop each of her daughters.

During the sunset of her life, Nelda began struggling with some health challenges. There was a slow decline beginning in 2006, but it was when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 that her body really began to fight an uphill battle. It was at her home in Portage with her loving family by her side that she later drew her last breath.

Nelda Hayes was known for her spirit of adventure, her gift of gab, and her fun loving personality, but it was her unending love for and devotion to her family for which she will be missed the most. She was bubbly, outgoing, and never met a stranger. There are many who sit back and let life happen, but nothing could have been further from the truth in regards to Nelda as she was a bundle of energy that never slowed down. The timeless legacy she leaves behind will be carried on by the children and grandchildren she adored.

Nelda Hayes died on Wednesday, June 1, 2011. Nelda’s family includes her husband, Bob; her children, Teresa (Patrick) Patterson of DeWitt, Michigan, Todd Hayes of Ft. Myers, Florida, Julie (Tom) Lantz of Portage, and Joni (Joe) Champion of Indianapolis; 9 grandchildren, Emily, Alicia, and Lauren Patterson, Erin Hayes, Griffin, Caden, and Quincy Lantz, Brennan and Lydia Champion; sisters, Lois Whitman & Arva Frith; and brother, Darrell Lane. Visit with her family and friends, view her life story film and share light refreshments on Tuesday from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Life Story Funeral Home, Portage; 5975 Lovers Lane (344-5600). Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at St. Catherine of Sienna; 1150 West Centre, Portage. Please visit Nelda’s memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can archive a memory or photo, sign her guestbook, or make a memorial donation to the West Michigan Cancer Center.