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.
Charles H. and Florence Irwin Scholarship Endowment
Grand Valley State University
Tom and Molly Charles Scholarship Fund
Ferris State University
Big Rapids, MI
Kids' Food Basket
1300 Plymouth Ave NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Life Story / Obituary
Molly Ann Charles always saw the good in people and the bright side of most situations. She usually had a smile on her face and joy in her heart. Family and friends will never forget her kindness and generosity, gift of gab, sassy spirit, and unconditional love. A devoted wife, mother, sister, and friend, she will be dearly missed and lovingly remembered.
When our country was still in the throes of the Great Depression and the unemployment rate remained at 20 percent, the American spirit prevailed. Films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Boys Town provided a much-needed distraction. Kate Smith’s rendition of “God Bless America” during an Armistice Day broadcast filled our hearts with pride and patriotism. For Charles “Chuck” and Florence Irwin, 1938 was a time of great optimism. On September 2, at Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids, they welcomed Molly—their second child—into their hearts. She would soon join her 2-year-old brother, Tom, at home. Six years later, sister Patti would complete the Irwin family.
After traveling and living about the country while her dad was in the U.S. Navy, the family returned to Grand Rapids and settled down on the southeast side. Chuck taught and coached at Central High School, while Florence taught at Westwood Hills Elementary School until her retirement.
Growing up, Molly was never at a loss for playmates. She and her siblings were close with their cousins, and Molly had plenty of neighborhood friends. She collected garter snakes in a hatbox when she lived in Iowa City and played “Movie Stars” with a dear friend on Nelson Avenue. She was a wonderful big sister to Patti, and they enjoyed a closeness that never faded.
Molly attended Oakdale Elementary and Central High, which she chose because her dad was there. While at Central, Molly worked for her dad in the athletic department, was a cheerleader, was on the Homecoming court, participated in talent shows, and was named “Cutest Girl” by her senior class. Following her graduation in 1956, she attended Grand Rapids Junior College to study merchandising.
Molly’s life took an interesting turn at Grand Rapids Junior College, when she met a young man who was fresh out of the Marines. She and fellow student Tom Charles continually crossed paths, hit it off and began dating. Following a two-year engagement, the couple was happily married on March 21, 1959, at Park Congregational Church. After a romantic honeymoon in Chicago, the newlyweds settled into a Lafayette Avenue apartment owned by Molly’s aunt. Early in their marriage, Molly worked at Michigan Bell.
In 1961, Tom decided to return to school, choosing Ferris State Institute, and the young couple moved to Big Rapids. While living there, Molly and Tom would welcome their first daughter, Amy. After Tom graduated in 1964, the family returned to Grand Rapids. Tom began working in banking, while Molly stayed home to care for Amy. In 1966, Patty was born. Molly loved nothing more than being with her girls. She was always present in their lives, providing treats for classroom parties, participating in school activities, playing outside, taking them to the park, baking cookies, and simply enjoying the family. Not surprisingly, many of her daughters’ friends looked to Molly as their “other mother.”
Once Patty was out of elementary school, Molly returned to the workforce. She eventually accepted a full-time position at Davenport College, where she remained for more than 20 years and retired as executive assistant to the president. She always kept busy. Over the years she was heavily involved in a millage campaign for Grand Rapids Public Schools, volunteered through the Butterworth Hospital Porter Guild, taught exercise classes for the Grand Rapids Recreation Department, led Bluebirds and Camp Fire Girls, was a PTA room mother, assisted teachers at West Middle and Union High, coached cheerleading at Union, and was a member of Greater Grand Rapids 100 Women Who Care.
Molly and Tom enjoyed gatherings of friends and family, and other festivities. For several years, they got together with six couples to play volleyball and share a meal at one of their homes. The couple took memorable trips to the Smoky Mountains and throughout Tennessee, visiting Gatlinburg, Chattanooga, and Pigeon Forge. Though she preferred driving to flying, Molly and Tom made several trips to Hawaii and visited Italy and Greece. Molly was always an animal lover and adored her dogs, grand-dogs and grand-cats. She treasured attending dog shows with her daughter Amy and delighted in giggling over puppy antics.
In her free time, Molly loved to shop—particularly for shoes. Nothing thrilled her more than finding a great deal! She made time daily to read the newspaper, front to back. Molly and Tom were active members of Wallin Congregational Church, where Molly enjoyed providing food and serving at church bazaars and fellowships.
Molly had an uncanny ability to put people at ease. A great conversationalist, she could talk to anyone about any subject and was never at a loss for words. She made friends easily and kept relationships alive that started back in elementary school.
Molly was sweet, silly, sassy, stubborn, hardworking, kindhearted, loving and a wonderful person. She loved her family and friends and was there for whoever needed her. She could watch tennis and basketball until everyone else gave up. She loved her gardens.
Molly and Tom were married 62 years and spent the decades enjoying their family, traveling, going for drives, experiencing happiness and sadness, working through illnesses, rejoicing in successes—building their world of love. She loved her family dearly, as they will always love her. They didn’t know May 9 would be her last Mother’s Day.
Molly Ann Charles, beloved wife of Tom Charles, favorite mom of Amy L Charles (Kristoffer Darlington, partner) and Patty (Jef) Mallett, and lounging companion of cairn terrier Chipper, died Monday, May 10, 2021. Her brother Thomas Irwin died many years before her. Left to remember Molly are her sister Patti (Pete) Rowe; brother-in-law Don (Jan) Charles; many nieces and nephews and their families, including PJ Scott, Charlie Scott, Carrie Finley, Chris Charles, Tracy Charles Elenbaas, Darryl Charles and Travis Charles; great-nieces and great-nephews; cousins near and far; and an extended circle of dear friends.
Visitation is Friday, May 21, from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. A memorial service will be held Saturday, May 22, at 1 p.m., with Pastor Ila Flo Barfuss officiating. The family will begin receiving visitors at noon. Cremation has taken place, as Molly wished. For contributions in her memory, please consider the Charles H. and Florence Irwin Scholarship Endowment at Grand Valley State University, the Tom and Molly Charles Scholarship Fund at Ferris State University, and Kids’ Food Basket.