Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Eleanor "Ele" Piela

February 19, 1937 - April 2, 2020
Grand Rapids, MI



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 Catholic Church
1120 4 Mile Rd NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
(616) 363-6885
Web Site

Life Story / Obituary


Eleanor Piela’s story begins in 1937 when the Golden Gate Bridge opened giving Americans renewed pride and faith in the economy after a tough period in the nation’s history. Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated to his second term in office and Amelia Earhart attempted a flight around the world. Born on February 19th to Arlington Carl and Ruth Margaret (Ottenwess) Salmen, Ele Mae, brought great joy into their lives.

Growing up an only child on Silver Lake near Rockford, Ele lived a typical childhood of the times. She attended local elementary schools and graduated with the Class of 1955 from Catholic Central High School. During her senior year, she met John Piela at a school dance. Ele pursued this tall handsome classmate. They were exceptionally drawn to one another and after dating only nine months, they were engaged. Nine months later, they joined in marriage on October 5, 1957 at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish. The happy couple honeymooned with a road trip to the Grand Canyon. When they returned, they stayed on Silver Lake for a short time saving up their resources to purchase their own home. Working hard at her job with Michigan Bell and John was busy as a GM tool and die maker, their dream came true when they purchased their first family home on Ball Avenue.

Devoted to one another and longing for a family of their own, Ele and John prepared their lives for parenting. Over the course of thirteen years, they welcomed seven wonderful children. With their family rapidly expanding, they soon moved to their home on the East Beltline. Once she was blessed in her role as a mother, she became a homemaker. The family loved to spend time camping throughout Michigan and enjoyed their time at their family place on Holland Lake. Ele would soak up the sun wherever she was. Summer holidays when the whole family gathered were especially cherished. Her family was her greatest treasure.

Active in their younger years, she and John played on a bowling league every other Sunday for many years. On Wednesdays, Ele would bowl at Miracle Lanes where they had free kid care! She and John instilled in their children the value of a strong faith life and attended Mass together at St. Jude Catholic Church since 1963. Once the children were grown, Ele returned to the world of work. She worked at the Harley Hotel, Sears, and in the kitchen at Northview Public Schools.

Ele enjoyed the simple pleasures in life. Much of her time she just enjoyed being home watching TV and doing word search puzzles. Only once did she work up the courage to fly with her husband, John, who liked to fly for recreation. Instead, she preferred waving from the yard! When she and John retired, they enjoyed motorhome trips to warm locations in the winter, eventually settling in ZephyrHills, Florida and spent their summers back at their Holland Lake cottage. Not one to spend too much time in the kitchen, Ele did, however, perfect her recipe for Chocolate Chip cookies! On every occasion, she would make double triple batches! This became a terrific reason for the children and grandchildren to stop by and visit.

Ele, always practical, was a master of cutting coupons, garage sales and pursuing the sale ads. She enjoyed sewing clothing for the family and knitting colorful afghans. She cherished the holidays, especially Christmas, where she was known to get an early start picking out the perfect gifts for her family. Ele was a beautiful person who lived her life doting on her family as well as well as enjoying the many blessings in life. May her loved ones never doubt the love she had for each and every one of them and may her warm memories be a comfort to them in the years ahead.

Eleanor Mae Piela, age 83, of Grand Rapids, passed away on April 2, 2020. She is survived by her husband, John; children, Christopher Piela, Catherine (Ron) Minnie, Deborah Herdegen, Denise Piela, Diane (John) Fox, David (Sarah) Piela and JC (Heidi) Piela; and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A Visitation and Memorial Mass will be celebrated at a later date with inurnment in Resurrection Cemetery. Contributions in her memory may be made to St. Jude’s Catholic Church. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to leave a favorite memory, photo or to sign the guestbook online.