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Stella Myers, 99, of Hale

Stella Myers of Hale, Michigan passed away peacefully on March 24, 2023 at Hale Creek Manor where she had lived in assisted living with her husband Roland (“Curley”) since January 2016. She was 99.

Stella was predeceased by her husband, who passed away in March of 2020. Stella is survived by their six children: Jim, of Washington, DC; Keith, of Clinton Township, MI; Ron, of Ortonville, MI; Tim, of South Lyon, MI; Bernie, of Garden City, MI; and Cindy, of Gaithersburg, MD – as well as by their respective spouses.

She is predeceased by sisters Anne Choike Borbely of Carleton, MI; Theresa Szalay Riddlemoser of Dearborn, MI; and Helen Papp of Brownstown, MI and South Branch, MI. Stella leaves 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and is also survived by dozens of nieces and nephews in addition to cousins from throughout the state of Michigan and beyond.

Stella was born on Feb. 21, 1924, the second oldest of four girls, to George and Anzelma Prayner, both recent Hungarian immigrants to Delray, the largely Hungarian enclave of Detroit. Hungarian was Stella’s native language, and she learned English only at age 7 as she began school. Throughout her young life in Delray, Stella attended Hungarian-language Catholic Mass at Holy Cross, and was steeped in Hungarian folk life and the “Old-Country” tradition, including cooking, instrumental violin music, and folk dancing – and as a teenager joined a dance troupe in traditional costume.

Stella’s father died at the height of the Great Depression when she was only 12. By age 16, Stella was compelled to leave Southwestern High School and join her older sister and mother in a housecleaning service to help make ends meet. She later took office work, and during World War II Stella joined thousands of other women in the war effort by working at the legendary bomber plant at Willow Run, MI, assembling avionics panels for the cockpit instrumentation.

Stella Prayner wed Roland Myers on May 17, 1947, and they were married nearly 73 years. They celebrated both their 60th and 70th anniversaries at large affairs held in Hale that were attended by well over 100 family and guests.

For 35 years the Myers family resided in Garden City in suburban Detroit, where they built a house in 1949. As a homemaker in Garden City, Stella not only met the challenge of raising six kids, but also was active in church and neighborhood activities. The family belonged to St. Raphael Catholic parish, where the kids attended school and Stella served in the Altar Society and as a volunteer organizer of the annual fundraising bazaar. Stella spent time as a Cub Scout den mother and was an enthusiastic member of the neighborhood Pinochle card club.

Whether it was nurturing her multicolored ornamental flowerbeds or caring for the annual vegetable and herb gardens, Stella always took pleasure in putzing around in the soil. She composted waste for her gardens before it became trendy, and scattered dried breadcrumbs for birds while taking pleasure in all the zipping around at the hummingbird feeders.

Stella was an avid and consistently capable bowler beginning in her early Garden City years and later becoming a member of a league in Hale. After a more-than-50-year career as a kegler, at the age of 82 and with great reluctance Stella finally stepped back from the sport – not due to infirmity but merely because she and Curley were too frequently on the road!

Having always regretted being forced to leave high school early, Stella returned to school later in life, successfully completing 10th through 12th grades and proudly earning her cherished High School Diploma. She also took informal classes to reinforce her native Hungarian.

Roland retired from Ford Motor Co. in 1984, and as “empty-nesters,” Stella and “Curley” – as he was always known to friends Up North – permanently moved up to their beloved vacation home on Blue Ox Trail near Jose Lake, north of Hale. Beginning in 1966, Stella and Curley’s family had built that home themselves, over the years slowly carving an expansive and comfortable homestead out of an unspoiled and forested parcel of land. Stella and Curley were parishioners at St. Pius X in Hale, and volunteered after Sunday Mass at the coffee and doughnuts social. Stella also donated time to the St. Vincent de Paul chapter in Hale.

As a young girl, Stella had begun collecting postage stamps – a lifelong interest, and in her home one could find squirreled-away clumps of envelope corners bearing colorful postmarked stamps, with those of Hungary a favorite. Stella liked to read and would routinely have bookmarks in a book or two. She took great interest in leafing through newspapers and was known to send off clippings. Stella spent time even in her last days browsing through issues of the Washington Post passed along by family. Though Stella lived with dementia in her later years, she could still surprise with her knowledge of current affairs.

Had her husband not regularly had the TV switched to a sporting event, Stella would have been content with the Weather Channel running in the background 24/7 as she dabbled in the kitchen treating her family and friends to Hungarian savory dishes like stuffed cabbage or peppers and traditional “Old World”-style cakes and pastries.

As a teenager of very modest means in the Great Depression, Stella taught herself to sew dresses and other clothing for her sisters and herself – a practice she continued throughout her life. She fabricated the curtains and drapes in her homes, and before moving north, Stella worked several years at a custom drapery shop, exercising those skills.

In her retirement, Stella capitalized on her formidable talents with a needle and thread by taking up quilting, and over many decades perfected her craft, annually exhibiting her prize-winning masterworks at quilt shows and the Iosco County Fair, and expanding her impressive array of prize ribbons. For many years, Stella traded expertise with members of the local Quilt Guild. In the last decades of Stella’s life, that steady hum of the sewing machine in her dedicated quilting room left a masterful and celebrated legacy of dozens and dozens of richly crafted quilts and wall hangings that she bequeathed to all of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandkids.

During her days at Hale Creek Manor, Stella took pleasure in a wide assortment of activities and happenings. A jigsaw puzzle fiend, she always had one in progress on the designated table. She happily “got messy” on crafts days, but, quite often was able to “clean up” at Bingo. Scheduled entertainment programs and enrichment activities with horses and baby lambs and pet dogs were always fodder for tales about tails.

Having acquired their first snowmobile in 1968 (a popular Sno-Jet), Stella and Curley were both early and prominent pioneers in the sport of snowmobiling in Michigan. They were both literally trailblazers in the sport, working with authorities to establish snowmobile trails and related infrastructure. For 25 years or so, the two were leaders or participants in countless snowmobile trips throughout the Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Stella and Curley were longtime, loyal members of the Hale Area Trailblazers snowmobile club, and belonged to as many as five local clubs. Stella and Curley were very active as well in the Michigan Snowmobile Association, and were honored as the first couple to become “Life Members” of the fledgling organization.

In later decades, Stella and Curley could be spotted throughout the state on twin his-and-hers snowmobiles. They retired from the sport in 2008 – at the not-so-young ages of 84! By that time, they both had become well-known and beloved figures in the history of snowmobiling in Michigan – not to mention local legends of a sort, having contributed immeasurably to the sport in the Hale area for more than 40 years.

Off the trail, Stella was Curley’s steady sidekick as they made the social rounds of their snowmobile groups and fraternal organizations, such as the HATs, the Eagles, the VFW, the American Legion and others, where Curley was partial to teasingly showing her off as the “Silver Fox” – an apt nod to her very youthful appearance and shock of vivid silvery-white hair.

In the 1990s, Curley had brilliantly handcrafted from scratch a detailed, small-scale Model T pickup truck based on a golf cart chassis and wheels. He likewise meticulously fashioned a radiantly red locomotive on the same scale. Stella and Curley will be remembered by many – in costume and waving – as they drove one or the other contraption in parades through Hale and at venues around the state.

In the snow-free seasons, Stella and Curley regularly prowled the roads of Michigan and America, hauling their 5th-wheel camper behind their truck. They were regulars at camping trips organized by fellow snowmobiling groups throughout the state. For many years, they took extended summer road trips, faithfully showing up at the International Snowmobile Congresses every year at venues around North America. These travels took them as far east as Prince Edward Island, Canada, and as far west as Wyoming. Annual autumn trips to Washington, D.C. to take in the events and sights with son Jim and daughter Cindy were eagerly anticipated and always fondly recalled.

Her ethnic identity would always remain a strong focus for Stella – whose original name in Hungarian is “Gizella.” Her children recall a house complete with Hungarian publications, unintelligible radio news broadcasts from Delray and recordings of Gypsy violin music. At the age of 65, Stella realized a lifelong dream of traveling to Hungary to experience the culture firsthand and to meet cousins. Her son Jim and spouse Joe escorted Stella on a journey to Europe, where in a tiny traditional farming village she finally did meet those relatives – speaking Hungarian! – as well as encountered all the hallmarks of her heritage, including the aromas of well-familiar foods, her mother’s childhood home, and the churchyard graves of her grandparents. A highlight of her journey was an overnight stay as a guest in the nearby Royal Palace of Esterháza, the grand and sprawling 18th-century home of the local nobility – and significantly, a place where her own mother as a teenage girl had ironically once labored in the palace laundry!

Stella was universally known as genial and easy-going, sensible and reasonable. She will be remembered as a smiling and friendly person with a loving and caring heart, and as someone who was generous with her time and attentions – in short, a profoundly decent human being. Whether times were lean or not, Stella was always quick to sacrifice her own personal financial wants or needs for the sake of her family – and for that they are appreciatively indebted. Even with six kids and a husband underfoot, she somehow found time to tune out the chaos, seeking retreat as a night owl. As lights clicked off in bedrooms, Stella would switch on.

Over the decades with her husband Curley, who was known for his raucous and fun-loving ways, unflappable Stella became well-skilled at curbing his mischief and fending off his boisterousness. When it came to his good-natured teasing, joshing, or horseplay, she simply took it all in stride, well aware of how to simply brush it off and hold her own.

Stella’s family will be ever grateful for the care and love she received from the dedicated staff at Hale Creek Manor, where she was cherished and respected. Caregivers appreciated her agreeable and cooperative nature, and Stella stayed true to her innate disposition till the end. Despite the occasional confusion from progressing dementia, Stella always had a pleasant smile for everyone, never complaining. Despite a number of serious falls and injuries in recent years, in her stalwart fashion she managed to endure, soldiering on with dignity and grace.

Stella’s generosity of spirit is an example to us all. Every one of her children smiles at remembering how their Mom would frequently drill into their heads what had become her mantra: “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Despite the various hardships along the way, Stella Myers was blessed to have such a rich and full life – a near century! – and for that we remain always grateful. Not long ago, Mom was queried by her son if she knew what happened when you reach 100. “What!?” she said, somewhat warily. “You get to start all over again from ‘One’!” With a wry smile and characteristic good humor, Stella slowly replied, “That’s what I was afraid you’d say…” – and then had a good chuckle.

She is already dearly missed by her family and by all who came to know her!

Arrangements are being handled by Buresh Funeral Home in Hale. Cremation has taken place, and Stella’s ashes will be interred, together with her husband’s, at Esmond Evergreen Cemetery in Hale on Monday, May 22, 2023, at 1 p.m.

It is hoped that a celebration of the lives of Stella and Roland (“Curley”) Myers can be scheduled in the Hale area later this year. A celebration of life for extended family and friends in Detroit area is also anticipated. Both will be announced as dates are available.

The family suggests that donations in Stella Myers’s memory may be made to:

Hale Creek Manor
Annual Fund for Staff & Residents
3191 M-65
Hale, MI 48739

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