Katherine Tournell

April 14, 1925 - August 30, 2017
Grand Rapids, MI



Monday, September 11, 2017
3:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263
Driving Directions


Tuesday, September 12, 2017
11:00 AM EDT
First Evangelical Covenant Church
1933 Tremont Blvd NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504


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.

First Evangelical Covenant Church (for Choir and Orchestra)
1933 Tremont Blvd NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp
4158 Camp Delight Road
Onekama, MI 49675
Web Site


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

Ball Park Floral
8 Valley Ave.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 459-3409
Driving Directions
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Katherine Leona Tournell lived life firmly rooted in her faith. She worked to create a loving home where all were welcome and served her church community as well. Kay was a devoted and loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother who will be greatly missed.

1925 proved especially prosperous with the advent of many remarkable debuts including the first motel, the dedication of Mount Rushmore, the opening of the first Sears Robuck store, the first issue of the New Yorker and broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry, the election of our nation’s first female governor, the founding of Chrysler Corporation, the publishing of The Great Gatsby, and the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial. It was during this time, on April 14th, that Howard and Nellie (Chappell) Drake welcomed their daughter Katherine Leona to their hearts and home.

Growing up on the lower West side of Grand Rapids as the youngest of the Drakes’ four children, Kay learned much about sacrifice, generosity, and faith. As the Depression cast its dark shadow many hardships impacted the Drake family. The memory of arriving home after school one day to learn that the family had lost their home was never far from Kay’s heart. But she also fondly remembers many simple joys like getting an orange in her Christmas stocking.

Though the difficulties of her early years could not be denied, Kay was fortunate to have parents who worked hard and sacrificed so that she could take violin lessons—something that inspired a passion for music that lasted her entire life.

As a young teen, Kay began seeking a church to attend. Eventually, she joined some of her school friends who went to First Evangelical Covenant Church where she found the orchestra an instant draw. She soon began playing with the orchestra and later became a member of the church. It was here that Kay explored and celebrated her faith, played the violin, sang soprano, and centered much of her social life.

While she was still fairly young, Kay’s mother became quite sick. As a result, Kay took on a lot of the responsibilities of running the family household and managing her mother’s care. She also helped her grandmother serve meals at the boarding house she ran. She balanced all this work with her participation in the orchestra at Union High School until she graduated.

Following graduation, Kay found work as a secretary in a medical office for a few years. While attending church, Kay had the good fortune of meeting William Tournell. Instantly attracted, the two began dating and soon knew their hearts were destined for one another. After dating for a couple of years, the happy couple married on July 20, 1946.

Bill was a dentist and he had committed to the Navy, so the young couple moved to Maryland and later Virginia where they made their home and Bill proudly served his duty. Kay held the two years they lived the military life fondly over the years. She became an enthusiastic and excellent Washington DC tour guide for family and friends and was so good that she was actually recognized by official tour guides at the big attractions. Kay and Bill also began their family while living in Virginia joyfully welcoming their daughter Nancy.

After returning home to Grand Rapids, three more children, Mark, Meredith, and Miriam joined the family. The Tournells lived in several homes in the Grand Rapids area including on Bridge Street, Covell, Northrup, Richmond, and Clover. While Bill continued his work as a dentist, Kay focused on the children and their home. As Bill’s work often meant his arriving home well after supper, Kay would join him at the table as he ate his meal and the two would discuss the day.

When the kids were young, the family took several road trips throughout the country. During the summers Kay would take the kids to stay for five weeks at Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp and Bill would join them when he could. Kay’s favorite way to shower her family with good love was through her wonderful cooking and baking. Her pies and pastries were delicious and her coffee bread was unrivaled and highly sought after. Many a church bake sale and auction were seriously bolstered by Kay’s coffee bread.

The Tournell home was always open to friends. She and Bill often hosted gatherings on Sunday nights where the front door revolved with many friends’ comings and going. Both Bill and Kay enjoyed these social events very much over the years. Katherine also felt a strong calling to be of service to others. She readily volunteered to help others who couldn’t drive by taking them to the store or important appointments.

In addition to music, Kay had many interests. She loved playing games like Scrabble, Zilch, and Boggle, loved coffee, and frequently indulged her sweet tooth--often pilfering the kids’ Halloween stash. In 1968 her passion for the Tigers was born and her devotion to the team was abundantly clear to all who knew her. She learned the players, memorized team stats, and watched or listened to every game she could. Seeing them play live proved a thrill and the autographs she got became treasures. Kay’s love of music remained a constant throughout her entire life; she played the violin well into her 80s and sang in a trio for many years.

Once the kids were grown, Kay and Bill enjoyed traveling together. They explored the US as well as Europe. They also shared much joy in becoming grandparents and treasured sharing time with them.

In 1988 Kay had to do the hard work of learning to live in Bill’s absence. Despite the challenges that came with being a widow, Katherine consciously chose to embrace life. She continued to enjoy her friendships that were largely rooted in her church community and also stayed very active in the lives of her children and grandchildren. With a love of driving, Kay was soon traveling again. Though she missed her trips with Bill, she eagerly traveled to the Chicago area to spend time with family. As many of the grandchildren lived out of town, she took to the road to see them. She thoroughly enjoyed holding the babies, bringing special gifts to the kids, and playing games as they grew older. Kay was always interested in their lives. She listened intently and remembered what was important to them. She prayed daily for each child and joyfully grew her prayers with the birth of each of her great-grandchildren.

Kay’s sincere love of people provided her with a very active social life. She regularly spent many an hour at Mr. Burger with several friends enjoying breakfast and one another’s good company. After living in a condominium for a few years, Kay moved to Covenant Village of the Great Lakes shortly after it opened. At Covenant Village, Kay was able to enjoy the comforts of living in a supportive community. She enjoyed living in the same community as many of her friends from church, renewed old friendships from younger years, and quickly made new friends.

Without a doubt, there will be an emptiness without Kay’s presence, deep faith, and generous heart. May there be comfort in knowing that her memory will live on.

Katherine L. Tournell, age 92 of Grand Rapids, went home to be with her Lord and Savior on August 30, 2017. She was preceded in death by her husband, William; her brothers Don Flint and Keith Drake; sister, Phyllis Malec; son-in-law Gary Carlson. Katherine is survived by her children Nancy & Glenn Murakami, Mark & Nancy Tournell, Meredith Carlson, Miriam Tournell; 13 grandchildren and 29 great grandchildren; sisters-in-law Audrey Branstrom and Norma Tournell as well as several nieces and nephews. The service to remember and celebrate Katherine's life will be held on Tuesday, September 12 at 11 AM at First Evangelical Covenant Church, 1933 Tremont NW. Friends are invited to visit with her family on Monday, September 11 from 3-7 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home - Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either First Evangelical Covenant Church (for Choir and Orchestra Funds) or to Portage Lake Covenant Bible Camp are appreciated. To read more about Katherine, to share a memory or photo, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.lifestorynet.com