Barbara JoAnne (Koepp) Vashaw passed on to a better life May 13, 2023 at the age of 92 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was born on October 26, 1930 in Marquette, Michigan and was preceded in her passing by her parents, Walter and Dorothy (Medland) Koepp, the love of her life for 53 years, her husband Roland “Bud” Vashaw, and her dear brother, Walter “Wally” Koepp. She is survived and will be deeply missed by her three children, Scott Vashaw (Elaine), Connie Lampe, and Kay Getschow (Glenn) along with her six grandchildren, Ryan Vashaw and Lauren (Vashaw) Mass, Mark and Matt (Lampe) and Grant and Gregory (Getschow), as well as three great-grandchildren, Gracelyn and Quincy (Getschow) and Crosby (Mass).
Barbara was a woman whose gentleness, strength and values impacted the lives of so many. Having grown up during the depression, she graduated as an “A” student from Graveret High School, while working many afternoons and evenings at the ticket window of the local theater to help pay for college. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Western Michigan University, (incidentally marrying Bud the night of her graduation), and went on to earn her Master’s in Education from Michigan State University. During her professional career, Barbara helped to guide and grow so many young lives through her years teaching elementary school children within Grand Rapids Public Schools, working as a Teaching Consultant for Michigan State University student teachers, and finally as an elementary school principal guiding the work of other teachers following in her footsteps.
A discussion of Barbara’s life would not be complete without acknowledgement of her partner in life, Bud, and the wonderful life they built together. While raising their 3 children, they filled their lives with friends, music and laughter. Many Saturday night bridge games were played with friends at the kitchen table. Many parties with jam sessions lasting into the wee hours of the morning were enjoyed. Many sailing races on the lake at camp were followed by potluck dinners and spirited conversations with lakefront neighbors and friends. After retiring, Barbara and Bud divided their time between their cottage in Marquette and a home in Venice, Florida, and such gatherings with friends continued well into their later years. It was a fellowship they so enjoyed together.
For her children, Barbara was a steady source of love and support. Always there to listen, to advise, and mostly just to love them. They turned to her for her guidance well into their adult lives and she never failed them. This unconditional love and support continued on to her 6 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, in whom she found such joy.
It was also important to Barbara to ensure that family members who had come before her were not forgotten. She dedicated many hours sorting and labeling photos of her ancestors, documenting family artifacts with the Marquette Historical Society, tracing and recording the family’s genealogy, and even traveling to Cornwall, England to connect with and gather information from distant relatives.
Beyond her family and friends, Barbara found her greatest joys in life’s simple treasures… the buds popping out on the trees each spring, feeding sunflower seeds to chipmunks on the camp’s porch step, watching the hummingbirds enjoy the sugar water she put out, admiring the first colors of fall as they unfolded, loving on the family dog, and the many grand-pets and occasional neighbor dog that would enter the front door over the years, cheering on her beloved Detroit Tigers baseball team, finding the perfect rock from the shoreline of Lake Superior to polish and add to her collection, and watching the summer night sky for shooting stars. She loved a good joke, but also a good piece of poetry, penning many of her own originals. Her favorite flowers weren’t fancy, but wild daisies…even more special if they were hand-picked by a visiting grandchild.
Barbara was a woman of the utmost character. She was kind, considerate, honest, giving and compassionate. She managed many life adversities with grace and dignity. She set the bar for character so high that many of the world’s problems would no doubt disappear if more people aspired to be like her. Perhaps one of Barbara’a most simple, yet greatest gift, was her smile. Family members were regularly told by people that had come into her life what a beautiful smile she had, how she was always smiling, and what joy that brought to them.
Barbara’s sweet soul nourished those who knew her in so many beautiful ways. She was the catalyst of so many wonderful memories, traditions, and moments of love, joy and laughter. Her legacy will live on in everyone she touched during her time on earth. She is gone from us in body, but never from our hearts.
A private graveside ceremony will be held in Marquette, MI this summer where Barbara’s remains will rest in eternity between her husband, Bud and her brother, Wally.
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