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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Sheila Fortuin would agree that there was no one who met her and left unchanged. She was kindhearted, gracious, and giving with a heart that beat to help others in ways both great and small. Sheila experienced so many of the best things that life has to offer, but what made them so extraordinary was sharing them with the ones she loved. Blessed to share 21 years with the love of her life, she treasured each and every moment spent with her family and friends. Life will never be the same without Sheila here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy that is deeply rooted in compassion, unwavering strength, and unconditional love.
It seems only fitting that Sheila’s journey began during a time that was as vibrant as she was. It was the 1950s when James Dean and Marilyn Monroe dominated movies on the silver screen, Elvis Presley took the music world by storm, and televisions were becoming part of our homes like never before. Life was good, and the baby boom was underway. Amidst this exciting time was a time of great anticipation in the lives of Clarence and Lois (VandeBunte) Fortuin as they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the beauty of spring began to unfold in the city of Byron Center, Michigan, in May of 1952. The big day finally arrived when the baby girl they named Sheila drew her first breath on May 3rd. She was one of five children in the Fortuin clan as she was raised alongside her two sisters, Sharon and Pamela, and her two brothers, Charles and Melvin. Sheila was a good sister who always liked to be in charge. Her father worked as a car salesman while her mother took care of their family and home.
From the time she was a young girl Sheila was a bustle of activity. She attended local schools where she was very active socially. Even during the awkward teenager years Sheila had all kinds of friends from all different groups in school. She was great at debate and loved singing as her mother took Sheila and her sisters to churches to sing.
After graduating from Byron Center High School in 1970, Sheila went on to Ferris with plans of becoming a dental hygienist, but she soon discovered that this was not a good fit. She later got a job in the public works division for the City of East Grand Rapids, but Sheila actually spent most of her working days at Rock-Tenn in Otsego. There, she rose in the ranks and became the executive secretary to the general manager of the plant. This was a great fit for Sheila as she was very detail oriented and also had a magnetic personality and was easy to talk to. She worked there until they closed their doors, and she then sold real estate for a short time.
New and exciting changes were in store for Sheila when she met the love of her life. Her name was Trish Breithaupt, and they met through mutual friends. Sheila and Trish were true companions, and although they were never legally married they had been together for 21 years. An animal lover, Sheila and Trish currently had a cat named Sydney.
Throughout her life Sheila was a woman of many interests. She enjoyed spending time at the lakeshore, especially Saugatuck. Sheila took great care in making her home a comfortable haven as she was an amazing hostess who wanted to make sure that everyone always felt welcome. She also made sure that the outside of her home was inviting as she also diligently cared for her gardens. Sheila enjoyed cooking, and as someone who had such a generous spirit she regularly took food to neighbors and family when they were in need. A spiritual person, she was an active member of Portage United Church of Christ. Sheila enjoyed a wide variety of music genres, and although she wasn’t really a fan of country music she once attended a Garth Brooks concert since Trish liked his music. Sheila liked watching all kinds of cooking shows as well as the Today Show.
Described as thoughtful, giving, and easy to talk to, Sheila Fortuin was a gift to everyone she met. She had an amazing sense of humor and a magnetic personality that drew others near with ease. To know Sheila was to love Sheila, and a stranger was never a stranger for long. The greatest day of her life was the day she met Trish, and her devotion to her family and friends was unmatched. Deeply loved, Sheila will be forever missed.
Sheila Fortuin, went to be with her heavenly Father on Wednesday, November 23, 2016. Members of her family include her partner and the love of her life, Trish Breithaupt; 2 sisters, Sharon Mistele and Pamela (Timothy) Pietryga; 2 brothers, Charles (Lori) Fortuin and Melvin (Norma) Fortuin; special nieces, Charlie, Lily and Lucy; 2 aunts, Ethel VanDam and Marilyn VandeBunte; siblings, Jerilyn (Jim) Johnston, Brenda Bachmann, Cheryl Buyze, Christian (Gwen) Breithaupt, Shelley (George) Broad, Bette (Ron) Hall, Martin (Lisa) Breithaupt; sister-in-law, Barbara Breithaupt; brother-in-law, Robert (Joyce) Mabie; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. An open house with food and refreshments to celebrate Sheila’s life will be held on Saturday, December 3rd from 12 noon - 3 p.m. at the Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive; Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900. Please visit Sheila’s personal web page at www.BetzlerFuneralHome.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Kalamazoo Animal Rescue.