Charlton, Lee Ann Vavra Age 52, of Dowling, Michigan, passed away on Saturday, July 8, at Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo after a long battle with cancer. Lee was born on May 22, 1965 in Kalamazoo to Dr. James and Georgia (Woelbing) Vavra. Lee was a graduate of Portage Central High School, class of 1983. When Lee's parents were trained as Hospice volunteers in the early 1980s, Lee joined them in the training. At age 16, she became one of Hospice's youngest volunteers. In this role, she cared for several patients. Decades later, her caring nature led her to recertify as a Hospice volunteer. Lee earned her cosmetology license in 1984 and worked as a hair stylist until 1988. She took several courses through Rx Optical to become a certified optician and later worked for Hiemstra Optical in Kalamazoo until 2000. On June 26, 1993, at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Portage, Lee married her best friend and the love of her life, Gregg Charlton. They shared a special relationship filled with tenderness and humor. During their marriage, they shared the joys of raising a family together: camping, swimming, cards with family and friends, creating memories for their children, and making sure they had a life filled with love and laughter. They shared the joys of a life focused on family. During the challenges of Lee's final years of life, Gregg was her constant companion, caregiver, and rock. She passed away with her husband at her side. Once her youngest started attending school full time, Lee transitioned to a career as a bus driver for Gull Lake Community Schools, the profession she cherished the most. She was beloved by both parents and students. Lee had a passion for genealogical research, and she excelled at compiling the family history in a way that was both informative and artistic. She was the keeper of all family records. She used her natural people skills and outgoing nature to organize family reunions. Lee loved her children. She volunteered countless hours to their various activities, including service as PTO president at Kellogg Elementary School for three years. She would often bid on trips to allow her to be designated bus driver so that she wouldn't miss her kids' events. She made it a point to build relationships with all of her children's friends, earning the well-deserved moniker of "second mother" to many of them. In 2013, Lee was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of breast cancer. She remained a fighter throughout, and with the support of her husband and family, did everything she could to try to defeat the disease. Lee had a rich social life. She fostered deep and long-lasting relationships with friends and members of the community. She was a friend and an advocate for others. Even as she struggled, she continued to encourage and console them to the very end. Her passing will be felt far and wide. Lee is survived by her parents, her husband, Gregg Charlton, her children, Austin, Drake, and Madison Charlton, of Dowling, Michigan, and four brothers, Charles (Nancy) of Colorado, Stanley (Debbie) of Oklahoma, Steven (Karen) of Iowa, and Mark (Mary Jane) of Michigan. Lee was preceded in death by a niece, Georgia Vavra, of Iowa. Family meant everything to Lee. She was a beloved wife, mother, daughter, sister, and aunt. Her most cherished spot was the deck of her parents' home on Bristol Lake, where her family gathered to enjoy the view, visit with friends, eat, laugh, and reminisce. We will always hold in our memories her space on that deck and her place in our hearts. Special gratitude goes to the remarkable staff of Rose Arbor Hospice in Kalamazoo for their devoted care to Lee Ann and her family, and to all of her friends who rallied to her side. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Hospice of Southwest Michigan. A visitation will be held for Lee Ann at the Living Hope Community Church at 9292 East CD Avenue, Richland, Michigan, 49083 on Sunday, July 23 at 1:00 p.m., followed by a memorial service at 2:00 p.m. officiated by Pastor Todd Ter Avest.