Life Story / Obituary
As her family and friends can surely attest, Geraldine Wildey truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength for others, even in the most difficult of times, and she always had an encouraging word to say. Nothing brought Gerry greater joy than spending time with her loved ones. She was a shining example of determination and kindness, and she was always willing to go above and beyond to serve those around her. Forever loved, Gerry will be dearly missed.
Although the 1930s were primarily defined by the dark days of the Great Depression, there was a bright spot of hope in the lives of Gilbert and Violet (Sharpe) Wildey as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Geraldine Fay on January 23, 1932, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. These were the days when cities, communities, and families came together to weather the storm however they could.
Growing up, Gerry was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was the youngest child in the Wildey family. Gerry and her older sister, Eleanor, were very close and grew to be the best of friends. She was raised in the family home on Arlington on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. Gerry’s father worked in the mines while her mother worked at Sunshine Hospital. Throughout her childhood, Gerry loved to go to her grandparents’ house near Morley. It was a full day walk from the house into town, including their stops to go fishing. Gerry attended local schools, and following her graduation from high school she chose to enter the workforce and move on to bigger and better things.
New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Gerry as she met the man who would soon become her husband. His name was Forest Mutchler, and the two married shortly after high school. Gerry and Forest were blessed to welcome their three daughters, Joyce, Jeanne, and Doreen, into their hearts and home. She truly thrived in her role as a mother. Gerry later married Daniel Hiltz, and her family grew to include three sons, David, Dan, and Paul. She always did her best to raise her children into kind and hardworking individuals, especially when she lost her husband, Daniel, and was left to care for them mostly on her own. Gerry would go on to remarry twice more, first to Don Lewis and then to Calvin Byars, though both relationships ended in divorce.
All who knew Gerry can surely agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her loved ones above all else. She enjoyed spending as much time with her family as she could. Each summer, they would take a trip to the Upper Peninsula and go camping. Gerry loved the opportunity to take a break from ordinary life and enjoy the beautiful nature. She especially liked to get the family together for family reunions or holiday celebrations. Christmas was always an occasion with big meals and lots of popcorn. Later in life, Gerry was thrilled to become an aunt, a grandmother, and even a great-grandmother. She was a constant support for her grandchildren, but she was never afraid to be stern if needed. Gerry forever considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.
Gerry was never afraid to work hard in order to support herself and those who depended on her. She began working after high school, and over the years she would work at McInerny, at a laundromat, and at the Home for the Blind. For more than 20 years, Gerry served at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans in food service. She then worked with DK Security and the event staff at Devos Arena. As an involved member of her community, Gerry truly enjoyed pouring into the people around her.
Never one to sit still for long, Gerry pursued many hobbies to stay busy in her free time. She was a great cook and was known especially for her fried foods, her Swiss steak, and her meatloaf. Gerry enjoyed knitting, and she would make blankets for her loved ones. She also liked to play Canasta and other card games. Gerry loved watching John Wayne and Mash, and enjoyed listening to old country music. She was always most comfortable when she was at home, and though she wasn’t a social butterfly, she liked to talk with those she knew.
When reflecting on the life of Geraldine Byars, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. Her huge heart allowed her to touch the lives of countless others, and she was always willing to help those in need. A loving mother and grandmother to many, Gerry was so proud to watch her family tree grow over the years. She was well known for her grit and her determination. Though she will be deeply missed, Gerry leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.
Geraldine Fay Byars, age 90 of Grand Rapids, passed away on December 1, 2022. She was preceded in death by her husband, Dan Hiltz; daughter, Joyce Seevers; her son, David Hiltz; and sister, Eleanor Cook. Gerry is survived by her children Jeanne (Sam) Yon, Doreen (Adam) Church, Dan Hiltz and Paul Hiltz; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren; as well as nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, December 10, 2022 at 1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Van Strien Creston Chapel where friends may continue to visit with her family following the service. To read more about Gerry’s life, to share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com.