Northern Michigan is a beautiful place to visit, especially in the summer time. Scott and I lived in the Metro Detroit area of the state for about four and a half years, and we were able to experience a lot of the culture and scenery during that time. (You can check out the Detroit & Michigan page for a look back to a lot of those outings.)
You might have already known that we used to live in The Mitten, but not many know that I have family ties to the area as well. My dad actually grew up in Monroe, I have cousins and other family members who still live there, and I spent many summers of my childhood visiting my grandparents in Lovells, a small town just outside of Grayling.
They lived in a cottage on the river for decades, and my grandmother continued to reside there after my grandfather passed away for many years. It’s the perfect place to spend the summers to enjoy beautiful scenes of Pure Michigan on river, in the woods and near wildlife.
My family has many memories there fishing, kayaking and swimming in the river, and it has been extra special to revisit and do the same things with my own family ten and twenty years later.
Believe it or not, my grandmother lived here in the cabin during the summers and flew down to Florida to spend the winters with my parents up until her 100th birthday! She spent the last three or so years in assisted living in the area, and thrived through another miraculous three years there.
One of two huge reasons why Scott, Skyler, Roadie and I made a road trip earlier this month was to celebrate the incredible life of my grandmother, Imilda. She was a one-of-a-kind soul who we lost late-June at 103 years old, just shy of her upcoming 104th birthday on August 5th.
Grandma Stahl (Great Grandma to Skyler) was the absolute best. She was a wonderful, selfless person that had endless stories if you would sit and listen to them. She lived through extremely hard times throughout U.S. History including World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, and more all the way through this COVID-19 pandemic. The woman had grit and was the most resourceful and determined person I’ve ever met.
I was able to spend a lot of quality time with her during visits home to Orlando over the past ten years or so, but, unfortunately, Skyler was only able to meet her a couple of times since half of his life has been living through this pandemic. He knows who she was, but I can only hope to portray just how amazing of a person she was in stories that I will continue to tell him for years to come.
She was the ultimate gardener and social butterfly who loved being outside and wherever people were. She planted, gardened and took care of flowers until her late-90s!
My grandmother lived in a small town called Lovells, and just about everyone who resided there knew and loved her. They probably attended her church’s weekly services and meet-ups and also bought her award-winning pies that turned into a business she started well past eighty years old. We planned to have a big birthday celebration for her on her 104th birthday, so our family decided to keep the service as planned and have a Celebration of Life after her passing, honoring her at her neighborhood church service with a reception and burial to follow.
My dad and brother flew up to the area before we arrived in town to help plan and take care of anything that needed attention before the event. We arrived the morning after driving across the country, and we couldn’t wait to give big hugs as we don’t all live in the same area anymore and visits are few and far between.
They did a great job honoring her and gathering memorabilia from her home and from the family to display in the lobby of the church.
It’s almost impossible to capture the entire person she was in photos (especially the trimmed-down version I’m posting here), and those who were lucky enough to know Imilda know just how special she was and that she will forever be loved, looked up to and missed.
It had been a long time since I saw some of the family members on my dad’s side at the gathering, some dating back all the way to when I was in diapers! It’s wild to think that my son is now older than that, and here we were catching up and together again.
Beautiful words were spoken that day, and something that kept resurfacing was how genuine she was. Nobody there had ever heard her gossip, speak badly, or have anything negative to say about other people. She loved God, her church community, her family, her friends and could find a use (or recycled use) for just about anything.
Some tears were shed for sure, but it was definitely a celebration of her life that day.
She made it to 103 years old, but, more importantly, she had a positive affect on anyone she knew. She impacted people and will forever keep a special place in my heart.
I’ll think of her often, especially when I’m pulling random ingredients out of the fridge to create some type of meal. She always made the best soups and concoctions out of barely anything at all. It was remarkable, and I know that’s where I get it from!
Thank you, Grandma, for your heart, your soul and your legacy.
You will never be forgotten. <3