Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Kathy Emery

July 19, 1949 - March 1, 2024
Grand Rapids, MI


Memorial Gathering

Tuesday, March 5, 2024
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263
Driving Directions


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.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
262 Danny Thomas Place
Memphis, TN 38105
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


When reflecting on the life of Kathleen Emery, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. She was always willing to go above and beyond to serve others, and she poured her heart and soul into all that she did. Nothing brought Kathy greater joy than spending time with her loved ones, no matter how simple the moments. Her primary focus in life was forming deep and personal relationships with those around her. Dearly missed, Kathy will be forever held in the hearts of those who knew her best.

In the late 1940s, the United States of America was making the shift from a nation of war to a nation of peace after the turmoil of WWII. Rationing was no longer in place, and the baby boom was underway. It was during this exciting time that Vernon and Mary (Jablonski) Johnson of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first child. On July 19, 1949, their wait was over, and they welcomed their daughter, Kathleen Louise, into the world.

Growing up, Kathy was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was raised in the family home on Walker Avenue alongside her younger brother, David. Kathy’s father, Vernon owned Constructive Sheet Metal, while her mother, Mary, dedicated herself to caring for her home and her children. Throughout her childhood, Kathy enjoyed reading and playing with her friends. As a teenager, she and her best friend, Betsy, would take “journeys” around the West side of Grand Rapids. Kathy and Betsy loved to stay up all night, laughing and talking about the Beatles, and they would also spy on the local paperboy that Kathy had her eye on. She graduated from Union High School, then attended Grand Valley State University for a time, studying literature.

New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Kathy as she met the man who would soon become her husband. While cruising Alpine with her friend, she met a young man named Rick Emery, and there was an instant spark between them. Kathy and Rick were married in 1970. Over the next three years, they welcomed their two beloved sons, Jason and Jon, into their hearts and home. Though her marriage to Rick would eventually end in divorce, Kathy was always grateful for the time and the children they shared together.

All who knew Kathy can surely agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her family above all else. As a single mother to Jason and Jon, she was devoted to caring for her sons. Kathy loved taking them for chili dogs and milkshakes at the Red Lion before grocery shopping, and it became a weekly tradition. Holidays were spent with family. Later in life, Kathy was overjoyed to become a grandmother and even a great-grandmother. She adored her grandchildren and doted on them whenever she could, and she was always willing to help out, just as her own mother had helped her. Kathy thrived in her role as “Nana,” and she never missed a sporting event or activity. Her life truly revolved around her family. Kathy always considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.

In order to provide for herself and her loved ones, Kathy was never afraid to work hard. Her primary job was raising her sons, but she also worked for Grantex in payroll for 15 years. Kathy then worked for Frost Incorporated as a bookkeeper for 10 years, and she was later employed by Caraustar Packaging as a line worker. After six years at Caraustar, she retired to become a full-time grandmother so that she could spend more time with her grandchildren.

Never one to sit still for long, Kathy pursued many hobbies to stay busy in her free time. She was an avid reader, especially of mysteries, and she instilled that same love of reading in her children. Kathy had a creative eye and a talent for art. She enjoyed ceramics, painting, decorating, scrapbooking, and making handmade greeting cards, and she always gave thoughtful, handmade gifts to her loved ones. Kathy liked taking bus trips to the casino and an Atlantic cruise of the East coast. She loved having lunch with friends and spending time with her family at every opportunity.

As family and friends can certainly attest, Kathleen Emery truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times, and she always had an encouraging word to say. A devoted mother and grandmother, Kathy was a friend to many and beloved by all. She faced challenges head on with a spirit of gentle determination, and she was a shining example of kindness, humility, and generosity. Though she will be deeply missed, Kathy leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.

Kathleen Louise Emery, age 74, passed away March 1, 2024 at Butterworth Hospital after a short illness. Kathy was born July 19, 1949 in Grand Rapids to the late Vernon and Mary (Jablonski) Johnson. She was a devoted mother, grandmother and friend. Known fondly as “Nana”, becoming a grandmother was was her ultimate joy in life. Kathy became an expert scrapbooker and card maker, and blessed many with her creations. Kathy is survived by her sons, Jason (Melissa) Emery of Kent City, Jon (Kim) Emery of Coopersville; grandchildren, Bennett (Morgan Cash) Emery, Erika Emery, Isaac Emery; great grandsons, Hayes and Bryson; her brother, David Johnson of Muskegon; and many cousins and friends. According to her wishes, cremation has taken place. A Memorial Gathering will be held Tuesday March 5, 2024 from 4-7 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. To read more of Kathy’s Life Story, leave a memory or sign the guestbook please visit www.heritagelifestory.com.