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Life Story / Obituary
With a ready smile and a kind word, Seraphine Joan Bala Arbanas embraced each day as a gift and lived her life in service of others. Heart-centered, empathetic, and generous, Seraphine’s bright light made good days better and bad days easier. A devoted Catholic, who embodied the principles of her faith, she was a living example for all who were blessed to know her. A treasured mother, sister, grandmother, and friend, Seraphine’s love and light will long live in the hearts of those she loved.
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 a person’s ability to identify their desires and their willingness to do the work to make them a reality. Locally, this vibrant decade grew even brighter when Stephan and Anastasia (Wozniak) Niewiadomski welcomed their daughter Seraphine into their hearts and home on July 11, 1921.
The daughter of Polish immigrants, Seraphine grew up with rich traditions. While her father provided for the family by working in a furniture factory, her mother was a homemaker. Together they created a loving and supportive home on the WestSide of Grand Rapids at 1124 Watson St. SW. The sixth of the Niewiadomskis’ seven children, Seraphine’s childhood was filled with activity, much of which centered around the family’s faith. As members of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, a largely Polish parish, the family enjoyed the comforts of a loving and vibrant community. Much of Seraphine’s youth was spent enjoying attending the many functions in church and dances at area Polish halls.
Like her siblings; Nettie, Charlotte, Charles, Vistoria, and Harriet, Seraphine attended Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic School thru 8th grade. She then attended Davis Tech thru 10th grade when she left school to work. Her first job was at Michigan Tag Co., She then worked for West Michigan Mailers and later Bissell Manufacturing. She later worked as a lunch lady at Sacred Heart School cafeteria.
While attending one of the dances she so enjoyed, Seraphine was blessed to meet Harry Bala. Instantly smitten, the two began dating and fell in love. It didn’t take long for the young couple to recognize their good fortune and begin planning for a future together. In 1942 they married at Sacred Heart Church.
The newlyweds settled in a home they bought next to her parents at 1130 Watson St. SW. Doubly blessed, her sister Victoria (Stanley) Jachim bought a home across the street. In time, Seraphine and Harry were blessed to welcome children into their family. Their hearts experienced unimaginable loss when their son Jerome died as an infant. Despite the heartache, they embraced the joys of raising sons Michael and Daniel. Centering their parenting in many of the traditions they grew up with, Seraphine and Harry sent their boys to Sacred Heart of Jesus School and church. There they knew the many blessings of growing up with extended family. The family enjoyed weekends and summers at their Cottage on Crystal Lake as well as wonderful relationships with neighbors who felt like family.
Seraphine had many talents and was always eager to share with others. She loved to crochet and relished in gifting family and friends with afghans she lovingly made. She was a talented seamstress and skillfully made doll and baby clothes. Nowhere were Seraphine’s gifts more apparent than in the kitchen. She was an excellent cook and took particular pride in creating many traditional Polish dishes including; kielbasa, czernina, kapusta, golumpki, chrusciki, meatballs, parsley buttered potatoes, as well as cakes, cookies, and pies. Without a doubt, every forkful of her delicious creations was infused with her love.
At the young age of 55 and one day before his retirement in 1971, Seraphine’s husband Harry died suddenly. With signature faith, and the comforts of family, neighbors, and her church community, Seraphine moved through her grief and chose to embrace her life without Harry. She especially enjoyed going to bingo each Wednesday evening at Sacred Heart.
Seraphine had the good fortune of becoming reacquainted with Rudolph Arbanas, whose wife had died three years earlier. After spending some time reminiscing and reconnecting, the two began dating and soon fell in love. They married on June 8, 1985, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. Rudy had five children of his own as well as grandchildren. Fortunately, the two families blended wonderfully together, and Seraphine loved Rudy’s children and grandchildren as her own. The families spent much time together and thoroughly enjoyed the memories they were blessed to share.
Seraphine and Rudy enjoyed traveling and held their trips to Las Vegas and Hawaii as some of their favorites. They took in many cruises too. When not traveling or spending time with loved ones, Seraphine liked to relax by watching her favorite shows on TV. The Price is Right, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune were her favorite games shows. She also enjoyed watching Judge Judy and The People’s Court with Judge Wapner. She rarely missed cheering on her beloved Detroit Tigers.
As they aged, it became time for Seraphine and Rudy to sell their home and move to Marsh Ridge Senior Community. On Sept 21, 2009, after 24 years of marriage, Rudy passed away. While still very much grieving the loss of her husband, Seraphine’s son Daniel suddenly died on Feb. 15, 2008. Just three short years later on March 7, 2001, Seraphine’s son Michael also died suddenly. Without hesitation, the Arbanas children and grandchildren wrapped Seraphine in their love and took her under their wing as their own mother. They did much with her and for her. While they shared much of her day to day life, they especially enjoyed visiting Gun Lake Casino and playing the slots with her.
As her health declined, Seraphine moved to Stonebridge Manor where she received closer care from a dedicated staff. On Monday, April 29, Seraphine’s breathing became labored, and she was taken to Mercy Health St. Mary's Hospital where she died at 7:22 pm with Larry Jachim and Mary Arbanas at her side.
Generous, positive, and kind, Seraphine lived a faith-centered life rich in family and friends. Her gentle warmth and inspiring strength provided much comfort for others, and she will be lovingly remembered by everyone who knew her.
Seraphine J. Bala Arbanas (nee Niewiadomski), aged 97 of Grand Rapids, passed away suddenly on Monday, April 29, 2019, at Mercy Health St. Mary’s Hospital. She was preceded in death by her 1st husband, Harry Bala, her 2nd husband, Rudolph Arbanas; sons, Jerome Bala, Daniel Bala, Michael Bala; six brothers and sisters. She is survived by her step-children, David (Rose) Arbanas, Paul Arbanas, Joe Arbanas, Tony (Mary Lynn) Arbanas, Mary E. Arbanas (friend Lou Educato); grandchildren, Tim (Lisa) Bala, Kimberly (Tim) Polasek, Katie (Geoff) Schuur, David A. (Cindy) Arbanas, Ron Arbanas, Lisa (Tim) Arbanas Jackson; many great-grandchildren and step-grandchildren; brother, Joe (Donna) Niewiadomski; many nieces, nephews and friends.
Seraphine was a lifetime member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Sacred Heart Church on Thursday, May 2, at 11:00 am. Relatives and friends may meet her family on Wednesday from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, with the rosary prayed at 7:30 pm, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW. Burial in Holy Cross Cemetery. Visitation at the church on Thursday from 10:00 am until the Mass begins at 11:00 am. Contributions in her memory may be made to Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. To read more about Seraphine’s life, to sign her guest book and to leave a memory of her, visit her web page at www.lifestorynet.com