Wednesday, November 1, 2017
11:00 AM EDT
5550 Oakland Drive
Portage, MI 49024
The church doors will be open at 10:00 a.m. to allow Nicole's family to receive visitors for one hour prior to the service time.
Everyone is invited to share food, stories, and memories with Nicole's family after the Memorial Service at a Reception in the church fellowship hall.
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.
The Nicole Leffingwell Fund c/o Tami Leffingwell
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Dynamic, daring, and determined, Nicole Leffingwell lived each moment to the fullest. Wise from the start, Nicole possessed a gift for lighting up the hearts of others and inspiring goodness everywhere she went. With an innate sense of confidence, Nicole embraced life with a fearlessness and passion that inspired all who knew her. She even had “Never let fear decide your fate” tattooed on her side. Nicole knew what she wanted in life and chased her dreams without hesitation. In so many ways, Nicole's spirit was larger than life. Cherished daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend, Nicole's bright light will continue to shine in the hearts of those she so deeply loved.
On August 1, 1994, Tami and Glen Leffingwell welcomed their beautiful daughter Nicole into their hearts and home. From the second Nicole arrived, she began to powerfully touch, move, and inspire others. Though colicky as an infant, her quiet times were filled with affection and a sense of determination that fueled her entire life. She lit up every room with smiles and enthusiasm, laughter and love. In the face of an adult’s “no,” Nicole effortlessly found a way to do what she wanted anyway. She learned the art of batting her bright blue eyes from her Papa and never hesitated to use this skill to charm her parents and grandparents.
Nicole’s early years were spent exploring the world in the good company of her parents and grandparents who relished in the gift of sharing Nicole’s enthusiasm for just about everything. With an insatiable curiosity and an inherited creativity, Nicole loved many things. She loved to decorate Christmas cookies with Gram and her best friend Karlee. She also loved baking happy rainbow cookies with Aunt Vicky. She loved being outdoors, and she especially loved animals. Upon laying eyes on Kiara at the Kalamazoo Animal Shelter, Nicole pronounced her “her sister” and firmly declared, “That is gonna be my dog,” even though two other people had already placed dibs on her. Nicole prayed every single day, confident that she would get Kiara; Nicole knew how to manifest her heart’s desires! Of course, after several days, the phone rang and the welcome home celebrating began with her new puppy.
Her favorite playmate was her father whose crazy Barbie adventure stories always proved a good time. When her mom went away on business, the play escalated to epic proportions. Together with her dad a fantastic fort would be built in the living room. Her dad would bring OSB boards in and they would create multi-level forts where Nicole would sleep on the upper level and Kiara and her dad would sleep below. As she grew older, her dad often instigated games of tag with Nicole and her friends, easily becoming “the funnest dad” they knew. He even helped them plan and execute creative tp-ing adventures. Nicole loved to tease her mom by singing "Dancing Queen" by ABBA with her dad. Then later encouraging her friends to sing “I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas” at the top of their lungs when her mom was driving them.
Though she thoroughly enjoyed dance and gymnastics, at the age of five when her church Missionettes leader, Gwyn, introduced her to soccer, she fell instantly in love. Discovering her innate ability for the game, from that day on soccer was the center of her life. Nicole played soccer year-round. If there was an opportunity to be on the field, she was on the field, sometimes four or five nights a week. She often played three games in one night. Nicole was always in high demand, being one of the few female soccer players in Portage willing to play anytime of the day. Nicole made many close friends at SoccerZone including her boyfriend Mosab. They enjoyed playing together, challenging each other to be better, and cheering one another on.
Even as a little girl Nicole’s capacity for reading people was astounding. Without thought, Nicole’s empathic intuition assured the good care of others. On Christmas mornings, she never peeked under the tree. Instead, she patiently waited for Gram and Papa to arrive. Then she enthusiastically passed out the presents before considering her own. She understood the art of caring for others and was often the source of cohesiveness amongst her friends. Whether breezing through middle school in the company of her best friends, the “Fab Seven,” trudging through the challenges of high school, or taking on the world as an adult with her roommates, Nicole always made sure everyone was safe and knew they were loved. Never a mean girl, Nicole was always kind and loving. She was not only often the “mom” in most of her friend groups, she was very much the source of confidence regardless the challenge.
Nicole was naturally balanced. She could turn on the feminine charm in bedazzled sparkle one minute and zip around on a dirt bike the next. She could throw a baseball and football better than most boys, and just as easily curl up in the shade next to her Gram and Papa’s pool and read a volume of Shakespeare or Harry Potter. She loved and enjoyed being with people, but preferred the quiet company of animals. She was willing to take adventures with others, but never hesitated to adventure alone. She knew how to be her own good company, and she relished in a good cuddle with a loved one. She sentimentally hung on to her favorite stuffed Teddy, who was always real in her world, while eagerly adding to her bucket list for the future. Though she loved exploring social media, she also loved the feel of turning real pages in a book, and while she could engage in the sharing of ideas, she yearned to experience things first hand. With a heart that always thought of others, she protected those she loved, while also seeking out the experiences her heart desired.
With great care, Nicole found special ways to express her love and gratitude for her parents. She took her dad to a Tigers’ game for his birthday and Father’s Day-a special date just for the two of them. For her mom, it was all about a special tattoo. After doing the research and choosing a design, Nicole made an appointment to get matching tattoos on Super Bowl Sunday. Then, she told her mom. Nicole went first so her mom wouldn’t be scared, but how could her mom refuse? The design Nicole had chosen was from the children’s book, “The Kissing Hand” which held special meaning for the two of them. When Nicole went off to Kindergarten, her mom drew a heart on her hand each day and kissed it so that if Nicole felt scared while at school, she could look at the heart and feel her mom with her.
For all who were lucky to share time with Nicole, it is easy to recognize the many ways life was grander because of her passion. Oh, the places Nicole took others! Trails were explored, mountains climbed, and waterfalls felt. Crazy videos were made, zip lines zipped, Disney movies revisited, and cities navigated. Epic sand sculptures and snow forts were built, games cheered, history learned, and photos taken. Concerts were attended, scrapbook pages created, and homeless were fed. The skies explored, trees climbed, and golf balls hit. Sand crabs were hunted, songs were sung, and pets adopted. Nicole gifted each of us with a view of the world that we could not have imagined alone. Nicole saw beauty in every aspect of life and in so doing, she taught each of us to do so as well.
Even in the face of Life’s greatest challenges, the pain and uncertainty that came with her seizure disorder, Nicole chose Life at every turn. With signature courage, Nicole had no fear. She did not fear dying, and more importantly, she didn’t fear living! “Your heart is free have the courage to follow it” was another tattoo Nicole had that perfectly captured her spirit. She resolved herself to hope and even as recently as Tuesday continued to add to her bucket list: hang gliding, backpacking alone, and running with the bulls. Though terrifying for those who loved her, Nicole’s insistence on a wholehearted life was awe-inspiring.
Clearly, Nicole's sudden departure leaves us stunned and short of breath. While it is beyond words to imagine life without Nicole's steadfast presence, may we find comfort in our many sweet memories of the young woman we were privileged to know. May we also find the courage to carry Nicole’s legacy of embracing each person and each day as a gift forward. With every kindness we extend to another and every fearless step we take, we keep Nicole’s spirit alive in our hearts and lives where it will continue to ripple out and inspire others.
Nicole is survived by her loving parents, Glen and Tami of Portage. She also leaves behind her maternal grandparents, Dennis and Vicki Fitzpatrick; her paternal grandmother, Iris Voorhies; Aunts and Uncles, Lori (Michael Green), Vicky Schmidt, Dennis (Jennifer) Fitzpatrick, Michelle (Tom Hornak); Cousins, Cory & Jason Leffingwell, Heather (Lance & Hazel Rood), Joseph & Jacob Fitzpatrick, Jakob Schmidt, and Tomas Hornak; extended family; her boyfriend Mosab Aziz; and a multitude of friends.