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Obituaries » Barbara S. Flaherty (Gesmundo)

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December 11, 1956 - October 11, 2022

Cremation has taken place; there will be a memorial to celebrate and honor her life in the spring of 2023. Friends and family may share a condolence message online at In lieu of flowers, consider contributions to Ascension Borgess - Tree of Love, which provides free mammograms to women who cannot afford them, c/o the funeral home.

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Barbara Flaherty (Gesmundo), age 65, of Richland, MI, passed away Tuesday October 11, 2022, at Ascension Borgess Hospital. She was born to the late John Patrick Flaherty and Frances Ada (Wood) Flaherty on December 11, 1956, in Pontiac, MI. Barb was a creative soul and spirited woman who loved to cook, bake, sew, dance, travel and spend time with her family. She is described by friends and family alike as funny, creative, resilient, and strong. She described herself as stubborn and a perfectionist. All of these qualities helped her fight for herself and others. Barb grew up in Trenton, MI. Her parents were of Scottish and Irish descent and connecting with her heritage was meaningful to her. Barb was only 14 when her mother passed and as the only daughter, she took on some of the motherly responsibilities for her siblings at an early age. As a result, caring for others became an integral part of her nature. When Barb’s father remarried in 1982, the two families formed a tight knit group which continues to this day. Barb graduated college with a BS in Fashion Merchandising from Western Michigan University. She was a natural when it came to creative design ideas and loved putting her talent to creative use – whether it was in a work environment or the interior design of her home. Barb met James (Jim) Gesmundo in 1984, when they first danced at the Bayview Gardens (now The Dock at Bayview). After courting for three years, they were married in 1987 at an intimate ceremony in Delton, MI. She converted to Catholicism and especially loved reading about the saints and gained strength from the inspiration of their lives. She experienced the blessings of her own life with the arrival of her two children, Nate in 1987 and Callie in 1989. Being with them as children and adults brought her such joy! As young children, she read to them, taught them how to garden, took them on Lake Michigan beach adventures, and engaged in activities with them at school. As they grew, summer days were spent at Gull Lake, on weekend trips to Chicago, on family travel adventures and winters were spent cross-country skiing (she especially enjoyed trips to Stokely Creek Lodge). As young adults, she supported them in following their own hearts even when it took them far from her geographically. She never tried to redirect their choices to what her preference might be. After marriage, she joined Jim at Serafino’s Party Store, where she was instrumental in a late 1980s redesign, which established the highly popular deli featuring subs, focaccia, and eventually spinach-stuffed pizza. Customers looked forward to the beautiful gift baskets Barb prepared for major holidays and individual gifts. Later, Barb was self-employed as a seamstress and worked for an alterations store in downtown Kalamazoo. She spent her final working years as a pharmacy technician at Bronson Methodist Hospital. Barb loved food—cooking and eating it. She was an avid reader of Cook’s Illustrated with a subscription spanning decades. She was an inspired cook who was always eager to try something new and perfect a recipe. Her creativity was always on display when she was cooking; she would often combine recipes to prepare her own vision of a dish and she had an innate ability to improvise when missing ingredients. She and Jim enjoyed hosting parties and entertaining friends and family over home-cooked meals. Over time her love of cooking was matched by a love for baking. Barb used to work for hours perfecting her scone recipes and Scottish shortbread. Her baking perfectionism became so well-known that her brother Brian coined the phrase “Barb-it” when something was thrown out because it wasn’t good enough and required starting over. Jim would often come home to plates of delicious freshly baked items – too much for them to consume so he would take batches to Serafino’s so others could share in her gift. Barb and Jim were known for making Jim’s mom’s special spaghetti dinner to the delight of all who ever tasted it! They loved hosting spaghetti dinner parties at their home on Sherman Lake as well as traveling to share the meal with others. When Nate stood for his PhD defense, Barb invited everyone in attendance to a spaghetti dinner afterward. She also did this in South Dakota and Wyoming while Callie was working on summer field projects, and in Ohio before Nate’s wedding. Barb loved engaging in life through her other creative hobbies of gardening, sewing, interior design, art collecting, antiquing and journaling and loved being active whether through cross-country skiing, swimming, biking, concert-going, dancing or traveling. Barb was also equally interested in getting to know people. She was genuinely curious about them – those close to her and those she didn’t yet know. She loved the laughter and stories that developed in social company whether it was about food, recipes, travel or family matters – she was a great listener and also delighted in sharing her own stories. In 2008, Barb was diagnosed with breast cancer. It went into remission from 2009 until 2016 when doctors discovered it had returned during tests for a nagging ski injury that wouldn’t heal. She did not let her cancer define or limit her. She wanted to be present with her family and continued to follow her passions. She was always active and she never gave up despite how much pain she was in. She was remarkably strong and determined to keep going and live her life to the fullest. She wanted to be the one to take care of and accommodate others. She wanted to cook and even do the dishes when she visited her children as a way to contribute and say thanks. She loved completing projects. On one occasion when visiting Nate and Katie in Chicago, Barb rose early to transplant flowers in their garden before they were even awake. Barb was deeply loved by family and friends alike. She graced those around her with kindness, love and caring. She was strong and courageous; she fought hard and made sacrifices to stay on this planet to be with those she loved. She is and will be profoundly missed. Barb is survived by her loving husband, James Gesmundo; son, Nathan (Katherine) Gesmundo, daughter, Callie (Zak Pohlen) Gesmundo; siblings, Kevin Flaherty, Brian (Kris) Flaherty, Wendy (Greg) Dean, Martha (Grant) MacRae, Glen (Lynn) Davies, Tim (Amy) Davies, as well as nine brother and sister-in-laws; eight nieces and nephews, and her favorite schnoodle fur baby named “Veela”. Barb was also preceded in death by her stepmother, Figes Dow.