Donna Ann Blake, aka Nan, brought her beautiful laugh to heaven on April 26, 2022. She lived life on her own terms; she was a free spirit who loved to push boundaries to make her family be the best version of themselves. No one could ever question her unwavering love and dedication for her family. Nan had a single purpose of helping them live life to the absolute fullest.
She was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 22, 1944 but lived most of her childhood on the south side of Chicago. She loved to point out her first taste of adventure was born at the age of five as she hopped the train with her two older brothers and headed to downtown Chicago to wander through Marshall Fields waiting for her mom to get out of work.
Growing up in Chicago laid the foundation for her inquisitive nature. She loved to explore all the world around her, whether it was music, food, religion, culture or the latest trend.
Nan ended up in Grand Rapids in her teen years, attending and graduating from Mount Mercy Academy in 1963 after plenty of time in detention and more than a few ruler slaps from the nuns.
In 1965, she gave birth to the love of her life, her daughter Jan (Tom Choroszucha). The two of them had a bond unlike any other. Nan invested every part of herself into Jan. Nan was a trailblazer who never realized just how progressive she was. From leading a Campfire Girls troop for years, to marching in protests, or jumping in the car for impromptu road trips, she was there. They spent every summer camping and traveling, with the windows rolled down, the radio blasting and singing the miles away.
As she got older, Nan’s adventures got bigger. She enjoyed and thrived on countless vacations scuba diving with her brother and best friend, Edward “Ed” Blake (Evelyn). They travelled throughout Mexico, the Caribbean, and many other destinations. She loved the water, the outdoors, and soaking in the sun. Ed taught Nan to be fearless and gave her the confidence in her abilities as a mom, sister, and friend. With him in her corner, anything was possible.
Throughout her life, Nan was a dedicated and loving nurse who spent her 40-plus year career providing dignified, thorough care to those in the final stages of life. She spent over 20 years working with Hospice of Michigan, retiring in 2012. She brought peace and comfort to many patients and families as they went through life transitions and stayed in touch with many of those families she helped. Nan was passionate about her work and derived much purpose from it.
Nan lived life on her own terms. She had her way of doing things and was notoriously stubborn. She was outspoken about issues she held close and always championed for the underdog. She was invested in politics and current events and was always on the pulse of the news. She loved sitting in her backyard oasis, filled with plants and sunshine, reading the New York Times on her iPad, seeing what her grandson was up to on Snap Chat or laughing at TikTok videos.
Nan’s greatest pride were her three grandchildren, Rich (Amber), Alycia (Chris) and Danny Choroszucha. She took them anywhere and everywhere she could, spending countless days and weekends with them. She didn’t know the word “no”, and firmly believed “what happens at grandma’s, stays at grandmas.” Nan was a grandma to everyone who needed her, and she took that duty with love and understanding. From hockey games, school parties, boy scout campouts, sick days, snowboarding, or curling up to watch Lord of the Rings or Sister Act, Nan was always there celebrating life’s milestones, no matter how big or small. She brought excitement and always cheered her grandkids on.
Nan has two great-grandchildren, Lilith and Mara. She lived for her trips to Arizona to visit them, and took a little too much pleasure in sugaring up the girls and handing them back to Rich and Amber with a spark in her eye and smirk on her face.
In the last year of her life, Nan gained two grand puppies, Laika and Archie. The pups knew when she was having a bad day for maximum snuggles, and when to push her buttons on a good day. They gave her purpose and kept her active.
Nan’s loss is felt deeply by her family and friends. The mark she left on those around her cannot be overstated. She brought laughter and joy into every conversation. She loved hard and selflessly. She taught compassion, to respect diversity, and she accepted people for who they were. She loved giving hugs, and she never hesitated to say “I love you.” Her grandkids will miss her morning texts and witty comebacks, her grandpuppies will miss her cuddles and sneaking pancakes under the table, her daughter will miss her unconditional love and hearing “how was your day” knowing Nan fully expected details. Nan made her family feel loved and cared for every second of every day. The size and depth of her heart was her most beautiful feature. Home was anywhere her family was all together.
Nan is joining her parents, Phillip and Florence, her big brother Billy, her sister in-law Sherry, and best friend Barb Hansma in heaven. Nan’s life will be celebrated in June by her family, just the way she wanted it; by the water, with good food, a pack of Winston’s, a pot of coffee and classic country music. Nan always said she'd bring the marshmallows - we've got the rest.
A special thank you to Dr. Frank Belsito for his compassionate care throughout her life, and the Hospice of Michigan staff – especially Holly McKay who walked her family through this impossible transition just as Nan would have wanted.
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