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Obituaries » Eliza 'Liza' Wolfe

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April 11, 1940 - June 29, 2023

A memorial service will be held on July 27th at First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo, 212 Park St. Kalamazoo, MI 49007, beginning at 5:00 p.m. with Rev. Julie Kline officiating. The family will receive friends at the church beginning at 3:30 p.m. prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may take the form of donations to First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo or to the Kalamazoo Public Library (Memo: Liza Wolfe Memorial / Children’s Room).

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Liza Wolfe passed away peacefully on Thursday, June 29, 2023, age 83, surrounded by her adoring family, after a yearlong feisty fight with cancer. She was known throughout Kalamazoo as the proprietor of Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool, which she operated from her home on Inkster Avenue for 42 years. Throughout her career as an early childhood educator, Liza focused on social skills as much as learning skills, instructing her charges on the merits of Please and Thank You, waiting your turn, raising your hand to speak, being kind and courteous to all others. Liza was born Eliza Lovett Stout on April 11, 1940 to Marjorie and Frederick Stout of Pittsburgh, PA. After moving from Pittsburgh to Louisville, KY, in 1956, in the middle of her junior year of high school, she graduated from Atherton High School and four years later from the University of Louisville, receiving her degree in elementary education in 1962. She was a proud member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. On July 6, 1963, she married Keene Perry Wolfe, then of Gull Lake, MI in the living room of her family’s home in Louisville, KY. They moved to Battle Creek shortly after the wedding and soon thereafter to Kalamazoo. Liza immediately began to build their family with the birth of their daughter Sarah Maurer. Sarah was soon followed by two brothers, Keene Perry Jr. and Andrew Frederick. Raising her children was her first priority, schooling them in lessons of compassion, generosity and thoughtfulness, lessons she would pass on to her legions of pre-school students. Throughout her life, Liza was always engaged in activities; creating and inventing, sewing, knitting, baking and other various crafts. Indeed, from an early age she was known to her parents as the Project Queen. She also contributed to her sister’s Nantucket newspaper, The Nantucket Map & Legend throughout the 1990s, writing a For Kids column that was later assembled into a book. She was a devoted member of Kalamazoo’s United Methodist Church family and will be long remembered for conducting the very smallest members of the church in Christmas Eve handbell caroling. After seeing her children into thriving adulthood, Liza loved to moonlight as a clown, something she did to the delight (and sometimes the fear) of children around town as well as at church fairs on Nantucket Island. Not one given to large wishes, she once told her sister she wished she could be a clown in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2000, her wish was fulfilled and she joined 300 clowns to prance and pratfall from New York’s Upper West Side to Macy’s Department Store in Herald Square. Back in Kalamazoo, her preschool students were a staple entrant in the annual Doo-Dah parade, often winning first prize. Of the many special places in Liza’s heart, two stand out: The Lodge on Huzzy Lake where she and Keene enjoyed many wonderful summers of family time and Nantucket Island where she often visited her sister. There, she loved beachcombing for wampum and shells perfect for her students’ crafts. It was on Nantucket, too, that she met her idol, Fred Rogers. Liza delighted in the arrival of all eight of her grandchildren. They were the joy of her later years, providing her with infants to cuddle, children to guide and young adults to admire. The skills she acquired as a mother and pre-school educator were passed on to these eight as gifts of both experience and enduring love. She was predeceased by her husband, Keene Wolfe, of 59 years, who died in January of this year and by her cherished daughter-in-law, Anne Verburg Wolfe.  She is survived by her three children, Sarah (David) Maurer of Portage, MI, Keene Perry Wolfe, Jr. (Angie Forward) of Kalamazoo and Andrew Wolfe of Brighton, MI; eight grandchildren, Bryce (Allyson), Christian, Peter (Keelyn) and Eliza Maurer, children of Sarah and David Maurer; Marjorie, Laurel and Holly Wolfe, children of Perry Wolfe; and Amalia, daughter of Andrew Wolfe. She is also survived by two brothers, Frederick Stout III (Mozelle), of Phoenix, AZ, and Christopher Stout (Chantal), of Ridgewood, NJ; a sister, Kate Stout (Pete Funkhouser) of Concord and Nantucket, MA. Liza is also survived by one great-grandchild, Eleanor Jean Maurer, daughter of Bryce and Allyson Maurer. A sister-in-law, Joyce Wolfe Heimonen; several nieces and nephews. Liza enjoyed many devoted friends, especially her Inkster walking buddies, as well as her cohort of high school friends who called themselves the POGs — Pot of Gold girls. They remained close their entire lives. Next to her family and close friends, those left behind by Liza include hundreds upon hundreds of former students who graduated from Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool and now enrich the Kalamazoo area and beyond with their own contributions to their communities.