January 31, 1936 - October 30, 2020
Jean Ann Lada, 84, passed away peacefully on Oct. 30, 2020. Jean was born Jan. 31, 1936, in Maple City, Mich. to the late Josephine (Schettek) and Gerald Lewis. The oldest of four children, she grew up surrounded by her large extended Polish family in Maple City, in an era where everyone knew everyone and shirttail relations were the norm. She had fond memories of weekly family get-togethers at Old Settlers Park and visiting her grandma at the family farm. Although she was close with all of her elders, a couple of her aunts had a profound influence on her throughout her life: her very friendly and lovable Aunt Vernie (whose homemade cream puffs were the best) and her Aunt Mary Ellen, who was just 10 years older and like a second sister and best friend to her. Jean mastered her cooking and baking skills from not only her aunts but also her parents. Her dad was a cook at the Traverse City State Hospital, and she’d often tell stories of him teaching her how to stuff a turkey and make a cake from scratch. Jean’s sister, Dorothy, was two years younger, and her brothers, Chuck and Donny, were eight and 14 years younger, respectively. She thus had a role in raising her siblings and experience in helping to run a household from a young age, and she quickly became a natural homemaker. When she was in elementary school, Jean moved with her sister and parents into a home on Monroe Street in Traverse City’s Slabtown neighborhood. She lived in four homes within a one-mile radius in Slabtown for the next 75 years. She lived on Front Street as a teenager, graduated from Traverse City St. Francis High School in 1954, and married her high school sweetheart, Joe Lada, in 1956. The newlyweds bought a house on Cedar Street. Even though Jean and Joe's Cedar Street house was quite small, Jean generously entertained family and friends regularly. All of the food was made from scratch and presented effortlessly, all while dressed fashionably in her signature clip-on earrings and high heels. After 17 wonderful years on Cedar Street, she and Joe had saved enough to build a new larger home on Monroe Street—half a block away from where Jean had lived as a child. The main thing Jean insisted on when building their Monroe Street house was a large finished basement with its own kitchen for entertaining. That basement certainly got a lot of use over the years, sometimes hosting up to 100 people at one time while the pool and ping-pong tables were used to display and serve an abundance of homemade foods and desserts, all created by Jean. It was almost like Slabtown's version of The Beverly Hillbillies. On holidays, family would spend the entire afternoon and evening in the basement—sometimes long enough to pull out the leftovers and microwave them for a second meal. Jean’s grandkids knew how lucky and spoiled they were with at least two desserts available at any given time, and they also learned that, if grandma was scooping a helping of food onto your plate, you needed to say, “that’s enough, thank you” before you meant it, as she’d always add two more scoops after you said it. In the basement living-dining area, an artificial Christmas tree sat in the corner year-round, decorated with Beanie Babies and other ornaments for not only Christmas, but sometimes Easter, Halloween, and the Fourth of July. Jean was in many ways the epitome of the 1950s housewife. She was an extremely hard worker and was not one to just lounge around. As a young woman, she took care of her siblings, was a babysitter for neighborhood children, worked as a waitress at Kiki's Diner during high school, and was an operator at Michigan Bell after she was married. After having kids and being a stay-at-home mother for several years, her strong work ethic and desire to provide her family with a better life drove her to expand her role from bread maker to bread winner. One way was by becoming a Stanley home products representative. Meanwhile, at the suggestion of a friend, she took piles of her children's outgrown infant clothing to the Copemish Flea Market for resale. On this first day she sold almost everything. That was it—she was hooked! From then on, she would scour the Record Eagle for yard and estate sales for items she could resell, such as dishes, housewares, and various trinkets. In fact, she and Joe were among the most well-known antiquers in the area and were regulars at the Copemish Flea Market for over 30 years. From an early age, they taught their children how to identify treasures that others might consider junk, a tradition they still carry on today, as is evident in their large collections of original Fiestaware, Heywood Wakefield furniture, vintage Christmas items, and other antiques. Jean was a devout Catholic and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church for 75 years. She was a very involved member of the church, giving her time to the Women’s Club, ushering, and counting donations. In her spare time, Jean enjoyed baking, playing Bingo, and trips to the casino. Although we've saved copies of the recipes Jean has left behind—Aunt Marlene's blueberry fruit slices, Bea Pahl’s fruitcake, Mildred's "decoration" cookies, mom's oatmeal spice cake with broiled ("burnt") frosting, and her famous German chocolate cake—we know they are just not going to taste as good as when she made them. But even so, our hope is that we all might master her recipe for a happy, loving, and productive long life. Jean is survived by her: children, Cyndi (Phillip) Belanger of Traverse City and Joe Lada (Gary Cozette) of Chicago and Maple City; grandchildren, Lydia Belanger of Brooklyn, N.Y. and Clark Belanger of Fort Wayne, Ind.; sister, Dorothy Fehrenbach; sisters-in-law, Marlene Coglianese, Donna (Tony) Coglianese, Loretta (Larry) Ludka, and Karyl (Tom) Kroupa; brother-in-law Don (Dee) Lada; Aunt Mary Ellen Novak; and numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends. She was preceded in death by: her husband, Joseph Perry Lada, in 2019; her brothers-in-law Frank Coglianese and Willard Fehrenbach; and her brothers, Chuck and Donald Lewis. Mass of Christian Burial will take place at 11:00 a.m., Fri., Nov. 6, 2020, at Immaculate Conception Church of Traverse City. Visitation will begin at 10:00 a.m. and will continue until Mass begins. The family kindly requests that safe social distancing and wearing a face covering be observed. For those unable to attend Mass, a livestream version may be viewed at www.immaculatetc.org. If you are unable to watch the service live, a video will be available at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com, for viewing at a later time. Jean will be laid to rest in Grand Traverse Memorial Gardens, at a private interment service. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com. Jean loved to cook and feed people, so if you'd like to remember her, memorials may be directed to the Immaculate Conception Food Pantry, 308 N. Cedar St., Traverse City, MI, 49684.
Jean Ann Lada, 84, passed away peacefully on Oct. 30, 2020. Jean was born Jan. 31, 1936, in Maple City, Mich. to the late Josephine (Schettek) and Gerald Lewis. The oldest of four children, she grew up surrounded by her large extended Polish... View Obituary & Service Information
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