Saturday, January 24, 2015
11:00 AM EST
Holiday Inn West
2747 S. 11th Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
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.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Sandra’s story is really that of a Family Story, one that she helped write every single day with her zest for life, her infectious humor and joyous laughter, and her limitless guidance in the lives of her family and all who knew her.
Sandra Kay was born on April 29, 1938 to Ruth (Bleistine) and John Barry in Birdsboro, PA. Her childhood wasn’t always easy but she possessed the gift of laughter and positivity. After her father died, she and her mother moved to Detroit, while her sister Joan lived with her Aunt in Pennsylvania and later, Cincinnati. Some of her fondest memories are of the summers she spent with her sister and her Aunt Nancy Rhoads. Sandra took ballet lessons, even earning a trophy when she was a young teenager, and her favorite times were those spent shopping and lunching with her mother, all dressed up, at the eight story Hudson’s in downtown Detroit every weekend. When Sandra was a teenager, her mother married George Bourke, whose nickname “Dear” truly fit who he was to not only Sandra, but everyone who knew him. As Sandra’s mother battled mental illness, “Dear” provided stability, safety, and the care she came to rely on and flourish under. He made a wonderful home for Sandra and her mother in St. Claire Shores that Sandra fondly remembered throughout her life; he took her all over and she enjoyed those times immensely; he gave her the basis upon which she established her own Family Dinner rituals when he played music while the family ate dinner together each evening, all dressed up. Sandra attended area schools, graduating from Southeastern High School in Detroit.
Sandra met Bill Lafler, who conned her into a first date, in August of 1959. Upon learning she was a scuba diver, he told her he was one too (thus, the con) and they spent many warm weekends driving to the beach in Bill’s 1957 Dodge so they could swim. Bill introduced her to his family at Christmas in December and they married after a six-month courtship, in February of 1960 when they were both 21 years old. Sandra, at 5’ 1”, and 6’ 4” Bill made a striking couple! Fifty-four years later their relationship remained spontaneous and their marriage maintained an unconditional devotion based on their shared value of family and serving others through love. It was of great importance to Sandra throughout their marriage that being Bill’s pretty wife was utmost; no matter what her day entailed, she dropped everything to prepare for his 3:30 after-work arrival home and met him at the door every day with perfect lipstick, not a hair out of place, dressed to perfection. After Sandra nearly burned down the kitchen in their first apartment, then living next door to Bill’s parents, they bought their first house across the street from them in Ferndale where daughters Kelley and Tracey were born. Sandra worked in the office at Minnesota Mining and then as a private secretary at a toilet seat and steering wheel manufacturing company, which made for some great toilet seat stories, but she happily gave it up to be a full-time wife and mother when the girls were born. The family moved to Troy for a short time and finally moved to Kalamazoo, in 1965, with General Motors/Fisher Body. Two more children, Shannon and Barry, completed the family and the house in Cooper Township has been a wonderful home and extended family “Playground” for the past 48 years where Kelley, Tracey, Shannon, and Barry have played with Detroit cousins and raised their families with endless fun and toys. Sandra and Bill fulfilled their vision of providing the perfect family gathering place with limitless generosity. Not many children have memories of playing on ten acres with a pond and stream, horses to ride, a pool to swim in, motorcycles to race, a trampoline (when no one had one), a train that held six young passengers that traveled around your yard, hay forts, skeet shooting, a merry go round, a driving range, golf carts, forts between trees, riding in an old horse-drawn ice cream wagon while being pulled by a tractor but Sandra’s kids and their cousins do! Eventually, Sandra said another Playground was needed, so Bill and Sandra bought a cottage on Delton’s Long Lake, along with a couple of boats and fun water toys. While the list of fun things and activities was long, the magic existed in the proprietors and their adult accomplices that made it all come to life for generation after generation of children.
Whether she was Aunt Sandra, Mrs. Lafler, adopted mom, mom, or grandma, Sandra was love and she spent her days enhancing and enriching other’s lives. Organization was not her specialty and may have frustrated her at times, but it fueled her creative and fun filled nature. Sandra was hilarious, she was a blast, she was her children’s biggest cheerleader, but she firmly and consistently taught her children what “appropriate” meant, how important manners were, and what a dignified public appearance consisted of. From her list of “unclassy words” to her “Dating Do’s and Don’ts: don’t eat tacos, don’t chew gum, ladies break bread, not bite it, Sandra sought to balance the silliness with the practical. Sandra nurtured those she loved, especially her husband and children, with the wonderful, bountiful food she cooked and served to them every day. Sandra was the mom who made four different hot breakfasts every morning for four children, who spoiled each child on their birthday, who made holidays extra special, even St. Patrick’s Day which was celebrated by turning even the simplest glass of milk or bowl of applesauce green, and who made it her mission to be sure that Tracey got Sandra’s best care after several strokes left her debilitated at the age of 15. Whether Sandra was brushing her daughters’ hair after Sunday night baths, or hanging out and laughing with Barry and his friends, she was the best mom she could be to each and every one of her children. When her family grew to include sons and a daughter-in-law, Sandra loved them and cherished them as her own, even admitting that although Denny largely ignored her “Unclassy words/deeds” list , she was glad Kelley had chosen him.
Sandra’s life was further enriched when her grandchildren arrived, she was the grandma that took time to play with her grandkids. She will always be remembered as the funny grandma, the grandma who served ice cream for breakfast and let her grandchildren sit on the kitchen table, pet the fish in the goldfish bowl, take food coloring baths to see how colors mixed until the grandchild’s body was stained like bruises, and sent her grandchildren home with a bucket of baby rattle snakes as pets. Bill and Sandra nurtured a deep relationship on special “Grandkid only” vacations and even in the midst of the dementia Sandra battled in later years, she absolutely and completely loved her littlest granddaughters and recognized and thoroughly enjoyed their quirks and cuteness.
Sandra Kay Lafler will be deeply missed by her family and all who knew her. The memories of her deep love for her family, her kindness to all she knew, her laughter, and her nurturing spirit will be held close.
Sandra Kay (Barry) Lafler no longer fills physical space here on Earth. This is a short account of her time with us. If you were lucky enough to know her or her family, please join us to share hilarious stories, remember and celebrate her life and her laughter. Sandra was born to Ruth (Bleistine) and John Barry in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania on April 29, 1938. She grew up with her sister Joan (Barry) McGriff and they were one another’s best comedic audience. Sandra’s father died when she was young and she moved to Detroit with her mom. She returned to Birdsboro each summer to play with Joan and be loved by her family, especially Aunt Nancy Rhoads.
Sandra has been married to Bill Lafler for 54 years. Mismatched in size and temperament, they shared abundant love and fun. As young lovers they lived in the Detroit area. A little older, and still lovebirds, they relocated to Kalamazoo in 1965 when Bill transferred with General Motors. They have four children, Kelley (Denny) Howard, Tracey Lafler, Shannon (Mark Conant) Distefano , and Barry (Amy) Lafler. Each of these children can make you laugh or take care of you, just like their mom. However, the best stories will most likely come from grandchildren Chad and Tyler Howard, Dominic and Anthony Distefano, and Evan, Addison, and Kassandra Lafler. Were you allowed to pet the fish in the fishbowl at your Grandma’s house?
You may have encountered Sandra when her children attended Parchment schools. After her children were grown, she worked in transportation at Plainwell Public Schools and enjoyed meeting people at the counter at Subs and More or Mackenzie’s Bakery on West Main. All those jobs aside, she was proud to be known as someone’s wife or mom. No need for an independent identity, but a very independent lady.
Sandra spent the last season of her life with Bill serving as her memory. They hung out together at their family compound, creating new ways to love and care for each other. Despite demanding needs, Bill was her sole caretaker. It was amazing and love inspiring up to her death on Friday, January 16, 2015. Sandra’s admirers will be having a darn good time on Friday, January 23 at Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49009, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. and 4:00-8:00 p.m., but Sandra certainly would have been late after she might have gotten lost. Please visit www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo of Sandra and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. On Saturday January 24, Bill invites all who were lucky enough to know her or her family to attend a party to celebrate Sandra at 11:00 at Holiday Inn West, 2747 South Eleventh Street, Kalamazoo, MI 49009. Bill would really like you to come and share in Sandra’s charming story while she fills the spiritual space. Sandra loved beautiful things including flowers. She could also kill a cactus like nobody’s business. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to ARC Community Advocates , 3901 Emerald Drive, Suite B, Kalamazoo, MI 49001, an organization that has helped the family with Tracey.