Copy and past link for recording of dove release
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3433 River Hill Dr
Grand Rapids, MI 49534
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Life Story / Obituary
Phyllis Marez lived her life with great appreciation for her family. A beloved wife, mother, grandmother, sister, and friend to many, she wanted nothing more than the very best for the family she loved. There is no doubt that Phyllis will be dearly missed by her many special friends and loved ones.
The year 1932 held many special marks in history: it was the year of a winter so cold that Niagara Falls froze completely solid, and it was the opening of Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Henry and Dorothy (Boersma) VanderWal were excited to welcome their newborn baby girl, Phyllis Mae, on Christmas Eve at their family home at 1017 Wealthy Street SE in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Born the oldest of four children, her birth brought great joy and happiness into their lives during an era still dealing with the effects of the Great Depression. When Phyllis was seven, the family settled into their longtime home on Alto Avenue.
Phyllis was raised with a strong foundation of faith. Her family were members of First Protestant Reformed Church. Phyllis’ virtues of being loving, caring, and compassionate stemmed from these early years. As a young girl, she attended Oakdale Christian School, and when visiting her grandparents at Bostwick Lake, she learned to fish. She and her sisters, who were always close throughout life, enjoyed visiting Franklin Park, playing Jacks, and playing “church.”
Phyllis was known for her love of animals at an early age. She tried to give her goldfish a “bath” in the bathtub, and often brought home stray dogs, or anything that she could claim followed her home! She would beg her parents to allow her to keep them. Her sister, Margie, remembers Phyllis always being in charge and never letting her get away with anything! Her love of music was also evident in her formative years: a natural talent who played by ear, she took piano lessons and enjoyed singing. After leaving Grand Rapids Christian High School, she joined the workforce working a couple of factory jobs and waiting tables at a local restaurant.
She met Salvador Marez, the love of her life, who worked at nearby Wolverine Brass and ate lunch at the restaurant. They struck up a conversation and a romance was sparked! Sharing a desire to spend their lives together, they married on August 23, 1963. Sal was raised Catholic and Phyllis was Protestant, so Bethlehem Lutheran Church became their church home. Throughout their lives, they were very active in their faith. Phyllis was a longtime wedding coordinator and helped with communion, and she and Sal both volunteered time delivering tape recordings to congregation members who could not leave their homes. Although their household roles were traditional, they balanced each other well and respected one another, and on May 13th, 1968, they celebrated the birth of their only daughter, Theresa.
Phyllis thrived as a mother. She was a wonderful cook and took great care to treat her family to homecooked meals served promptly at 4 PM. Some of her specialties were soup, Goulash, and Guiso, a Mexican-style meat stew that she had learned to make from Sal’s mom and sisters. An avid gardener, she always added fresh ingredients to her recipes. Although they were strict as parents, Phyllis and Sal instilled in Theresa the importance of always being accepting and loving toward others. Sal and Phyllis were always proud parents and supported her in her many endeavors.
In addition to her involvement with her church and her responsibilities as a wife and mother, Phyllis held many special pastimes. She loved to crochet and made countless afghans, even ones that she donated to local veterans. She got her green thumb from her father who taught her how to plant tulip bulbs, and later in life Phyllis enjoyed tending to the flower garden beds around her home. Resourceful and frugal, she would often use leftover containers to start plants from cuttings—and never threw away empty pill bottles or butter containers in case they could be used for something!
She was an award-winning member of the Great Lakes Avicultural Society where she showed the canaries, finches, and doves that she raised. A true animal lover, she always had a pet! When it came to sports, Phyllis favored her Detroit teams; the Tigers, Red Wings, and Lions. She and Sal enjoyed garage sales, and any time they stopped for a bite to eat, she would sneak food home for her beloved dog.
Their grandchildren were a big part of their lives. When they were young, she and Sal watched them almost daily. Her grandchildren remember her sharp wit, sarcastic sense of humor, and loving banter. Phyllis was known to dote on them and much like her dogs and birds, they never went hungry! They took the grandkids everywhere they could, visiting the Shipshewana outdoor flea market, the Detroit Zoo, and they also loved color tours in northern Michigan. A favorite spot was Muskegon, for trips to visit Lake Michigan and the beach where the grandkids fed the seagulls. Phyllis always brought old bread that she had collected from area stores whenever they had a beach visit planned. Her heart was always focused on these simple ways to make the most out of life.
As she and Sal aged gracefully together, they moved to Addington Place to receive more care. She was grateful that she and her sister, Margie, continued to talk or see each other every day. Their relationship was exceptionally close. A generous person who was selfless throughout her life, Phyllis modeled a beautiful life of putting others first. Her rich collection of memories will surely be treasured by her loved ones for generations to come.
Phyllis M. Marez, age 90, of Grand Rapids, passed away on July 3, 2023. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Salvador, and sister, Barbara Gentz.
Phyllis is survived by her daughter, Theresa (Bill Conely) Pope; grandchildren; Spencer (Crystal) Pope, Justin Pope, Jacob (Kendra) Pope, Deandra Pope (Curtis Decker), and Devon (fiancée, Beth) Pope; great-granddaughters; Arya and Scarlett; her faithful and devoted sister, Margie Dykstra; brother, David (Lori) VanderWal; many nieces and nephews including a special niece, Sue (Lacey) Johnson.
Her funeral service will be held at 11 AM on Saturday, July 8, 2023, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive with Pastor Robert W. Mueller officiating. Friends are invited to visit with her family on Friday from 6-8 PM and on Saturday beginning at 10 AM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Crash’s Landing are appreciated. To share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com