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Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Yvonne Gabb would agree that she was the heartbeat of wherever she went. She had a contagious zest for life and could be such a kid at heart, which drew others near with ease. Yvonne loved being a wife and mother, but she just may have argued that becoming a grandmother was her greatest gift. She was an outdoor enthusiast through and through, yet what made being out in the beauty of nature even better was sharing these experiences with the ones she loved. An adventurous free spirit, Yvonne was willing to try nearly anything once. Deeply loved, she will never be forgotten.
During the first half of the 1940s, the eyes of our nation were focused overseas while WWII raged on. While countless young service men and women were serving, those who remained stateside became familiar with rationing on common goods such as coffee, paper, and sugar. It was during this eventful time that Verlyn and Jean (Harris) Saunders were pleased to announce the birth of the baby girl they named Yvonne A. on July 9, 1942, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was the oldest of three children in her family as she was joined in the Saunders clan by her brothers, Lee and Bill. Yvonne’s parents were farmers in Texas Corners, and she was an active young girl who had a pony she loved riding all over. It was her horse that took her to see her girlfriends until she was able to drive as she was such a social girl even at a young age. As a student at Mattawan High School Yvonne loved hanging out with her friends and went to all the games and dances.
New and exciting changes were in store for Yvonne when she met the young man of her dreams while a senior in high school. His name was Joe Gabb, and he was two years her senior. They soon began dating. It didn’t take long for the couple to find themselves deeply in love. With a desire to establish a life together the couple was married on July 23, 1960, at her parents’ house. There wasn’t much time for celebrating as Joe couldn't get time off from work at Allied Paper Company. The newlyweds rented a few places for a couple of years before settling on his grandparents’ farm on Front Avenue in Mattawan where they had a total of 43 acres including 20 acres of grapes and 18 acres of asparagus.
Not long after getting married Yvonne and Joe discovered that they would become parents, and together they welcomed four children including Linda, Brenda, John, and Joe into their hearts and home. In addition to caring for their children, Yvonne loved farming and also began driving a school bus for Mattawan Schools after John was born. At the time she was only one of a couple of female drivers, and she was also one of the youngest. Yvonne worked hard in everything she did, and she was never one to sit still. She drove a bus for years, retiring after 42 years of dedicated service to the community.
Yvonne made life in the in the Gabb family so special. She was thrilled as her family grew, and she loved being a grandmother. Joe and Yvonne even helped raise Bill Schafer from the 8th grade through high school and beyond. She looked forward to decorating for the holidays and took great care in preparing big family meals. Yvonne built snowmen and made snow caves with her grandchildren every year, and she also raked leaves and jumped into the piles right along with them. Yvonne dressed up for Halloween every year and then took her grandchildren out trick or treating. She felt so blessed that her grandchildren all lived nearby, and she had an amazing way of relating to them. Yvonne was always very close to all of her grandchildren.
Throughout her life Yvonne was always active. She loved fishing, often on Lake Michigan, and as long as she liked the fish she was willing to prepare it. Yvonne even learned to catch steelhead with Joe and loved it. She loved sunbathing, too. In fact, she was even known to sit out on her deck in her snowsuit during the winter to try to get some sun on her face! Yvonne loved all the seasons as she liked shoveling snow and snowmobiling in the winter in addition to camping all over including out to California and back. They started out in tents and later graduated to campers including their 34 foot Winnebago that they took everywhere. Yvonne belonged to the YMCA and as a softball player herself she was instrumental in establishing the Mattawan Softball Little League. A bit adventurous, she loved dirt biking and often took the kids canoeing while they were still in diapers. She also went water skiing and snow skiing, enjoyed ice skating, and during her retirement years she visited Florida a few times. Yvonne was great at both checkers and cards, had all kinds of dogs throughout her life, and liked music of all kinds including county, classic rock, and blues. She often read while laying in the sun and enjoyed mysteries like those from Stephen King. Because she was so active, it was devastating when Yvonne was diagnosed with brain cancer just a month ago.
There was no one who met Yvonne Gabb and didn’t leave unchanged. She was lively, vivacious, and fun with a personality that just made people want to know her. A longtime resident of the community she loved, Yvonne was a stranger to none and a friend to all. Her love for her family was easy to see, and she was happiest when surrounded by their love. Life will never be the same without Yvonne here, but she leaves behind a timeless legacy that her loved ones will proudly carry on.
Yvonne A. Gabb died on June 14, 2016, at Rose Arbor Hospice. Surviving are her husband, Joe Gabb; 2 children: Brenda Gabb and Joe (Tamara) Gabb; 9 grandchildren: Tonia, Tasha, Christopher, Carrie, Sonja, Korey, Nichole, Joseph and Erin; 8 great-grandchildren; brother, Bill (Vicky) Saunders; close family friend, Bill Schafer and many nieces and nephews. Yvonne was preceded in death by 2 children: John Gabb and Linda Fey and brother, Lee Saunders. Cremation will take place. Visit with family and friends while sharing food and refreshments on Saturday from 11 – 2 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson-Paw Paw, 60900 M-40; 657-3870. Please visit Yvonne’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial contributions may be made to Rose Arbor Hospice.