Natalie Jukoff Gustafson, 95, Hobe Sound, FL passed away Sunday July 10, 2022 Born in Cleveland, Ohio, to Daniel and Eva (Chimiak) Jukoff on September 19, 1926, her early years were idyllic until she lost her beloved father in 1936 when she was nine years old. Her mother worked hard, wanting most to give Natalie the opportunities of a good education and a better life. Her dog, Jackie, was her pal, keeping her company during the long hours her mother, a Ukrainian immigrant who spoke five languages but had only a sixth-grade education, worked.
After High School Natalie started at Fenn College on a scholarship, ultimately graduating from Taylor University, as her mother beamed with pride. In 1949, her first job took her to LeRoy High School in Michigan to teach Home Economics. In her first days there she met her soon-to- be husband, James B. Gustafson, who introduced himself and told her he had just finished remodeling the Home Economics rooms she would be teaching in, offering to carry her papers out for her as she departed school one day (and subsequently dropping them all over the floor!).
Jim and Natalie were joined in marriage July 7, 1951. Jim was called back into the Army, thus they spent time living in Germany. Grand Rapids, Michigan was where they landed after the Army. Natalie taught Home Economics at Creston High School and Grand Rapids Central High School during her time there. The loss of her dear mother came too soon in 1958. During the GR years they had 4 daughters-- Cynthia Jukoff Gustafson (Craig Willert), Tanya Gustafson, Karen Eva Gustafson & Beverly Edna Gustafson, all of whom survive. Natalie had few relatives due to Revolution and War, and she felt fortunate that she was lovingly welcomed into the Gustafson family, giving to her daughters grandparents, aunts & uncles, and lots of cousins who were able to get together often, bringing her great joy.
1965 brought change as Jim started his Building, Land Development and Real Estate businesses in the greater Kalamazoo area. After several years of Jim commuting between towns, they relocated to Lake Doster, where Natalie nurtured and loved her rose garden; "Jake & Julia", the swans on the lake; her bulldogs and the dogwoods that blossomed in their backyard each spring. She worked to instill in her daughters a work ethic, responsibility, and money management skills. She attempted to teach them to sew. Natalie taught Home Economics at Parchment High School and Microwave cooking classes in Kalamazoo. She also worked at Gilmore's Dept. Store, mastering computers when they were just coming into the business world. Life changed once again when she lost her beloved Jim in 1989.
She moved to Jupiter, Florida, where she spent her time travelling, teaching grief classes, enjoying the ocean, playing her piano, singing in the church choir, being an election worker, taking lifelong learning classes, and enjoying her 4 grandchildren, whom she loved dearly--Andrew Gustafson Willert (Kaley Barbera), Katherine Gustafson Skinner, Grace Willert Faulkner (Alex Faulkner) and Aaryan Thorin Gustafson Somadder. Thankfully, she was able to meet her great grandson, Braxton Salvatore Willert. For several years she spent her summers in Grand Rapids, connecting with old friends. She loved her Persian cats, especially King Tom who was a great comfort to her in her last years.
Natalie overcame many losses and adversity-- she persevered. She relied heavily on her faith, attended several churches over the years and taught Sunday School. She was concerned for others less fortunate and knew how fragile our lives can be. She will be missed by her family, many nieces and nephews and friends. Visitation is set for 2 pm on July 18, 2022, followed by a Memorial service at 3 PM at the Covenant Church of Kalamazoo, 5708 E Main St. in Kalamazoo. In honor of Natalie, please remember to love others and be kind.