Honoring Tradition.
Celebrating Life.

Kathleen "Kitty" Carlson

September 2, 1931 - December 19, 2023
Grand Rapids, MI



Friday, December 22, 2023
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EST
Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes
Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel
2120 Lake Michigan Dr., N.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(616) 453-8263

Vigil Service at 6:30 PM

Driving Directions


Saturday, December 23, 2023
11:00 AM EST
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church
2510 Richmond NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
1 (616) 453-8229

Visitation from 10 AM until the start of Mass



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.

Charity of One's Choice

Life Story / Obituary


When reflecting on the life of Kathleen Carlson, it is easy to see both her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. She was a shining example of kindness and generosity, which was such an inspiration to all who were near. Nothing brought Kitty greater joy than spending time with her loved ones, even in the simplest of shared moments. Her faith formed the unshakeable foundation of her life, and her spirit of compassion allowed her to touch the hearts of countless others. Dearly loved, Kitty will be forever missed by those who knew her best.

The 1930s in the United States is remembered as a time of struggle for many. The Great Depression had a firm hold on the nation, and families across the country demonstrated their strength and resilience as they worked hard to make ends meet. It was during this trying time that James and Cecelia (Busch) Riordan of Grand Rapids, Michigan, were eagerly anticipating the arrival of their second child. On September 2, 1931, their wait was over, and they welcomed their daughter, Kathleen, into the world.

Growing up, Kitty was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was raised in the family home alongside her 10 siblings, with a 20 year age gap separating the oldest Carlson child from the youngest. The boys shared one large bedroom, and the girls shared two. Thanks to her six brothers, Kitty learned to be tough and determined from a young age. Her father supported the family by working as a farmer and as an assembler at Kelvinator while her mother devoted herself to caring for her home and her children. Throughout her childhood, Kitty attended local schools, including Delaney Elementary. The elementary school was not very far from her home, so she would walk. Kitty later went on to attend Union High School. She was very intelligent and enjoyed learning, and during her high school years Kitty balanced her studies with a job at the drugstore soda fountain downtown. She graduated from Union High School in 1949, ready to move on to bigger and better things.

New and exciting changes were on the horizon for Kitty as she met the man who would quickly become the love of her life. His name was Wayne Carlson, and the two first met at Hub’s Inn. Wayne spotted her from across the room, and he fell in love at first sight. Kitty was a bit more reserved, but she admired his '53 Oldsmobile and was very intrigued. Kitty and Wayne’s first date was at a dance hall on the beach in Grand Haven, and the rest is history as they say. Their relationship soon blossomed into something truly special. With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Kitty and Wayne were married on July 3, 1954, at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. The newlyweds took a honeymoon in the Upper Peninsula, then settled into an apartment in Grand Rapids for a short time before building a home of their own on 14th Avenue NW, where they would live for many happy years.

All who knew Kitty can surely agree that, of all the things she loved in life, she treasured her loved ones above all else. Over the years she and Wayne were overjoyed to welcome their four children, Sue, Terri, Robin, and Eric, into their hearts and home. Kitty truly thrived in her role as a mother and dedicated herself to raising her children. She liked to keep a clean and organized home, and each of the children were responsible for cleaning a room. Later in life, Kitty was thrilled to become a grandmother and even a great-grandmother as well. She adored her grandchildren and doted on them whenever she could, never missing an event or activity. Kitty always considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones.

Kitty’s faith was a very important part of her life. She was a devout Catholic, and she and her family never missed a service. Even when they were on vacation, they found a church to attend on Sunday. Kitty and the Carlson family were members of St. James Catholic Church, then Catholic Information Center, and later St. Anthony Padua Catholic Church. Every Sunday after church Kitty would invite her children and eventually her grandchildren to her home for a meal, and she would always send them with leftovers. Her faith truly formed the foundation of all that she did.

Never one to sit still for long, Kitty pursued many hobbies to stay busy in her free time. She was an avid fan of the Tigers and University of Michigan football, and she would often clean while listening to the games. Kitty was always well put together with her hair and makeup done. She loved soup, potatoes, and all kinds of pie except blueberry. Kitty’s favorite restaurants included Russ’s, The Grandvilla, and Culver’s. Over the years, the Carlson family loved going to Grand Haven State Park. Kitty would camp there with the kids while Wayne traveled back and forth to work. They would use Wayne’s 1999 GMC Red pickup truck to haul their 31-foot Jayco travel trailer. The family also rented a home at Silver Lake each summer, where they would take a dune ride every year. Kitty kept these traditions alive as long as she possibly could, going to Silver Lake into her 80s and camping at Grand Haven into her 90s. Grand Haven was truly her happy place.

As her family and friends can certainly attest, Kathleen Carlson truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times. Nothing brought Kitty greater joy than spending time with her loved ones. She was always willing to go above and beyond to serve others, and she trusted her solid moral compass to guide her. Though she will be deeply missed, Kitty leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.

Kathleen “Kitty” (Riordan) Carlson, age 92, of Grand Rapids, passed away on December 19, 2023. She was preceded in death by her husband, Wayne; siblings, Jim Riordan, Joe (Sharon) Riordan, Char (Ray) Obetts, Ann Riordan, Charles Riordan and Patti Hardin; and brother-in-law, Rog (Kathy) Carlson. Kitty is survived by her children, Sue & Chip Klein, Terri & Fred Marckini, Robin & Rob Lewakowski, and Eric & Julie Carlson; grandchildren, Nick (Ciji) Marckini, Katey (Josh) Tomaszewski, Erika (Nick) Grypma, Kevin (Rachel) Carlson, Kyle Carlson, Amy (Harald) Ernst, and Heather (Michael) Blase and great-grandchildren, Sophia Ernst, Max Ernst, Lucas Marckini, Bella Marckini and Rosemary Carlson. Also surviving are siblings, Terry (Eldine) Riordan, Barb (Bill) Fischer, Jack (Janet) Riordan, Rose Riordan, Greg Hardin, and Rick & Paula Riordan; numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins; and special family friend, Jackie Kort. Kitty was a huge fan of University of Michigan Football and enjoyed spending time with family and friends at Grand Haven. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11 AM on Saturday, December 23, 2023 at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 2510 Richmond St. NW. Friends may meet the family on Friday from 4-7 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Homes-Alt and Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW with a vigil service at 6:30 PM and on Saturday for one hour prior to the Mass. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice. Please visit www.heritagelifestory.com to share a memory, photo, or sign the guestbook if you are unable to attend.