Remembrance and Celebration Time
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.
401 Hall St. SW, Suite 263
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Spanning nearly a century Hazel Jean Livingston Grzeszak's life bore witness to times of tremendous trial and profound peace and prosperity. Hazel possessed a heart of gold. She was one of a kind and led life by example. Never one to choose negativity, Hazel's generous and loving spirit afforded much joy and a sense of sanctuary for all who were blessed to share time with her. Hazel welcomed each day as a gift and every person as a friend. She knew everyone she met in very little time and, with abundant smiles and much laughter, inspired a deep sense of connection. A loving wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and friend, Hazel was a wonderful matriarch who lived a great, beautiful life that inspired everyone she met. Cherished by many, Hazel will long be remembered and ever so missed.
The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. Post-war peace, a booming economy, rising wages for most Americans, and falling consumer prices resulted in a higher standard of living for most. Tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts marked this roaring decade when a person's success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and then work to make them a reality. For Albert and Cora (Ellens) Livingston, this vibrant decade grew even brighter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on September 28, 1924, when they welcomed their daughter Hazel into their hearts and home.
While her father worked as a merchant marine, her mother was a homemaker who also cleaned other people's homes in East Grand Rapids. The family shared a home on the Northwest side of Grand Rapids but moved often during the Depression. Despite the hardships, the children never felt "poor" as everyone was in the same boat during the Depression, and regardless of where they lived, Hazel was a terrific big sister for her three younger brothers. They walked everywhere together and particularly enjoyed swimming at the local public pool. When her mother contracted tuberculosis and needed to be away from the family for a year, Hazel quit her schooling at Grand Rapids Public Schools to help support the family. She worked two jobs and took on more responsibility for the care of her brothers and the home.
The strong work ethics Hazel developed in her youth became the firm foundation upon which she lived her entire life. She loved to work, and she did so until she was 92! During WWII, Hazel supported the war effort by working as a riveter in one of the many converted factories. She was a very proud Rosie the Riveter.
In December of 1945, Hazel had the good fortune of being set up on a blind date with her future husband, Gene Grzeszak. The couple spent their first date roller-skating at the roller rink on Division Ave. Instantly smitten, the pair quickly became a couple. With their hearts set on sharing the future, less than a year after their first date, they married in October of 1946 at St. James Church. Following a reception at the home of Gene's parents, the happy couple honeymooned for a weekend at Niagara Falls.
The newlyweds lived with Hazel's family before purchasing their first home on Scribner Ave. In 1948, Hazel and Gene welcomed their first child, their son Jim. In 1952 their second son, Jerry, joined the family. After the first two children were born, Gene and Hazel bought a station wagon and drove Route 66 all the way to California. It was a great trip for the young family, and many lasting memories were created.
Son Rick arrived in 1958, and the family was complete in 1961 when Don was born. Shortly after the birth of their last child, the family moved into a home on Hamstead NW, where they would live until they sold it to their son Don in the early 1990s. To help make ends meet when their family was young, Hazel and Gene rented an apartment, and Hazel's mother, Cora, lived with the family. For 19 years, Cora helped raise the boys and was a very important part of their lives. In time, Gene worked as a deliveryman for Cole's Laundry before taking a position at Kennedy Beauty Supply, where he worked in sales, calling on beauty shops across Michigan.
A working mother before the years it was common, Hazel worked as a presser for several dry cleaning businesses before going to work for Sheldon Cleaners. She absolutely loved working for Sheldon and did so for many years. She was also quite proud to work at the Rockford Meijer from age 80 to 92! It offered her the chance to work and interact with her community!
For 14 years, when their children were young, the family lived the entire summer at their trailer on Paradise Cove in Sand Lake. Later, Gene and Hazel bought a mobile home on Croton Pond behind Croton Dam in Newaygo County, where they continued to make many lovely memories. As she aged, Hazel enjoyed wintering in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and later, in Florida.
When her children began families of their own, Hazel was delighted to become a grandmother. She was a wonderful grandma who adored and spoiled her grandchildren. She enveloped them in unconditional love, sharing quality time with each of them and proving a trusted confidant. She was proud of their accomplishments and affirmed their hopes and dreams. She even learned to Skype to see and visit with them from a distance.
Without a doubt, the world feels significantly less certain in the absence of Hazel's steadfast generosity and love. May we find comfort in our many treasured memories and in honor of carrying her beautiful legacy forward. In each moment we freely give of our gifts in service of others, meet the day with confidence, choose love over fear, and enthusiastically cheer on our loved ones' endeavors, we celebrate the many ways Hazel gifted our lives. In this way, we keep her spirit alive and inspiring others as she so inspired us.
Hazel Jean Grzeszak of Grand Rapids, MI, age 97, passed away March 17, 2022, with her loving family at her side. Hazel was born September 28, 1924, in Grand Rapids to the late Albert and Cora (Ellens) Livingston. She was also preceded in death by her husband, Eugene Grzeszak; daughter-in-law, Joy Grzeszak; and brothers, Jack Livingston, Jerry Livingston, and Bill Livingston. Hazel cherished her family, and she was a true people person who made everyone feel loved. She will be remembered and missed by her loving sons, Jim Grzeszak of Belmont, Jerry (Jean) Grzeszak of Grand Rapids, Richard Grzeszak of Grand Rapids, Don Grzeszak of Sand Lake; grandchildren, Nancy (Jeremy Arndt) Grzeszak, Holli Grzeszak, Candace Burton Williams, Matthew Grzeszak, James Grzeszak, Jake (Kerenza) Grzeszak, J.P. Winchel; great grandchildren, Madisin, Mia, Vera Hazel, and Serenity. She is also survived by her sisters-in-law, Suzanne Livingston, Beverly Livingston, Judy Livingston; and many nieces and nephews. A memorial gathering will be held Tuesday, March 22, 2022, from 10-1 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. A time of remembrance and celebration will occur at 12:30 PM, followed by a luncheon for all in attendance. Interment will be in Holy Cross Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Emmanuel Hospice. To read more of Hazel's Life Story, to leave a memory or condolence, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com.