Maria “Mary” L. Pasella, “Grandma Mary,” 95, of Black Lake, died at home surrounded by her family. The daughter of Belgian immigrants, Mary was born in Detroit September 18, 1924.
She was raised in Detroit and as a young woman worked as a typist for the juvenile court. It was when some good friends arranged for her to meet a handsome young man that she found her soul mate. After just a few months Modesto “Millie” J. Pasella popped the question and they were married in Detroit June 26, 1948. This was the beginning of the dynamic duo, “Mary and Millie,” and a great story of love and family. For their first anniversary, Mary and Millie were blessed with a baby boy and eventually went on to have two more sons and three daughters. Mary made a warm and loving home for her family. She kept everything meticulously clean and everything had its place. She definitely ran a tight ship and her kids came to learn whatever mischief they found, Mom, or as she affectionately came to be known, “Columbo,” would eventually find out. Mary and Millie raised their family with love, understanding, encouragement, and support. They enjoyed spending time with their family. Vacations were a priority and family time a requirement. They began vacationing at a rental cottage on Black Lake, fell in love with the area, and in 1964 bought a place on the lake to call their own. During the summer months the cottage at Black Lake was always full of kids – her own kids, kids from town, kids from down the beach, and even kids who were staying at the state park. She was known to take in strays and even carnival workers. The boat ran all day, the kids skied, and Mary cooked, and cooked, and cooked some more. She fed everyone and no one ever left hungry. Sometimes there would be nothing left for her and Millie to have for dinner so they would have to go out. There were plenty of cards and spoons played around the big table in the cottage and it wasn’t uncommon to have extra kids overnight. Some stayed a day or two and some stayed all summer. Anyone who spent time at Pasella’s on Black Lake will attest to the wonderful memories made each summer. Mary reminisced about these days at the lake often. They were some of her best memories. After Millie retired, their dream to retire in northern Michigan was realized and they left St. Clair Shores after 41 years and moved permanently to Black Lake in 1989. Devoted to her Catholic faith, Mary was a longtime member of St. Paul Catholic Church in Onaway and a former member of St. Joan of Arc in St. Clair Shores. She was a member of the Onaway Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Ladies Auxiliary where she volunteered for blood drives, Friday night fish fry, and her favorite, the Fourth of July chicken barbecue.
Grandma Mary was the best cook around! Her spaghetti sauce and meatballs were, by far, the best and were pretty close to being famous. She made sauce for parties, weddings, and graduations and always counted how many meatballs she rolled. She was quite particular about the ingredients she used in her cooking and put a lot of time and love into whatever she was preparing.
Her family loved her stuffed cabbage and stuffed peppers, beef stew, lasagna, homemade waffles and Belgian Lukken cookies. We’re not sure if she enjoyed raking, sweeping, and shoveling snow, but she always seemed to have a rake, a broom or a shovel in her hand. She loved doing puzzles and would spend hours hunched over her table putting them together. Sometimes Mary would even get up during the night because she just had to work on her puzzle. She loved watching football on television, black coffee, and fish for dinner on Friday. It may be a little hard to believe that a woman in her 90s would enjoy Facebook and playing video games, but Grandma Mary did. She liked keeping in touch with everyone, especially her family in Belgium, seeing everyone’s photos, and just knowing what was going on (Columbo!). She passed many hours sitting in her chair playing games on her iPad while she watched CNN to keep up with current events. Well-informed, Mary had strong opinions regarding politics.
Although Mary was somewhat a “homebody,” she actually traveled quite extensively. She enjoyed vacations with Millie to Hawaii, Las Vegas, Alaska and all over Europe, including several trips to visit family in Belgium and Sardegna. She traveled with her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, Tennessee, Washington and Europe, not to mention the girls’ trips to Chicago, New York, New Orleans and Nashville. Mary spent several winters in California with her lifelong friends, Jessie and Mary. Their friendship spanned more than 90 years. They talked often and celebrated their birthdays together at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in 2017.
Grandma Mary was truly an inspiration, an example of how to live life to the fullest. She had the most amazing relationship with her husband. Millie teased her relentlessly and their back-and-forth banter was as good as any comic routine. They were awesome together, took care of each other, and showed everyone what true love is. Neat and orderly, Mary went behind Millie picking up tools he laid here or there while working on his numerous projects. He didn’t know where his things were but Grandma Mary always did. Shopping days were always an adventure with stops at the fruit market, Italian bakery, meat market and several other stores. Mary didn’t particularly like shopping but Mille sure did. Often she made a list and he’d come back with everything and more. She always acted bothered by all the food and other things he came home with but it never went to waste with all the family and friends that came by. A wonderful hostess whose door was always open for a visit, Mary entertained often. A stop at Mary and Millie’s always included something delicious to eat, drinks, cheese and pepperoni. And once again Grandma always acted like it was Grandpa inviting everyone over but really she loved every minute of it. There were plenty of beach parties and every Christmas she hosted a family Christmas party that everyone looked forward to and has fond memories of. The two of them were masters of entertaining; they really knew how to throw a fantastic party. They passed this ability to their children and grandchildren which occasionally led to Grandma Mary’s irritation. Every so often a late night party at the beach would end with her telling everyone “to get the hell out.” Everyone would be meek for a day or two until Grandma calmed down and chuckled about kicking everyone out of the compound. Mary Pasella was Mom, Grandma, Grandma Mary, Gram and Aunt Mary but so much more. She was ”Queen of the Compound,” matriarch of her enormous family, and Grandma Mary to everyone in town. Her greatest joy was having family together and helping them in any way she could. From cooking meals when life was busy to babysitting grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Grandma Mary was always there. She taught her family to work hard, to cook, to entertain, to have fun, to love without condition, to put their faith in God, and that family comes first. She was a good neighbor and a loyal friend. Mary had a wonderful sense of humor with the ability to laugh at herself. Tough as nails, she told it like it was and never had a problem setting someone straight. She definitely had a way with words; what most would consider insults were actually words of endearment coming from Grandma Mary. With her caring heart, full of love, she consoled broken hearts, celebrated achievements, offered encouragement and dispensed advice. She was thankful for her family and her health, often saying how blessed she was. Her mind was sharp right till end and in true Mary fashion she was still giving orders and making humorous remarks. She imagined Millie saying “Oh shit, here she comes!” and wondered how he would be pranking her as she entered the “Pearly Gates.” Grandma Mary died just as beautifully as she lived. She was able to say goodbye to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. In her final hours, on a warm sunny day, the great-grandchildren played together at the beach and a puzzle was put together on the kitchen table. Everyone was together at the lake just how she would have wanted it. As Grandma would say, “We’re not here to stay.” We were blessed to have this remarkable woman in our lives. She gave us more than she will ever know.
Surviving are Mary’s three sons, Mike Pasella of Warren, Mark (Dawn) Pasella of Clinton Township and Matt Pasella (Justine Chagnon) of Black Lake; three daughters, Fran Chagnon (Mike O’Meara), Marlene (Tim) George and Michelle (Tom) Hext, all of Black Lake; grandchildren, Michael Jr., Kimberly (Al), Melissa (Nate), Stacy (Trip), Nena (Mike), Tina (Craig), Kelly (Bob), Kristine (Carl), Kourtney (Josh), Teresa, John (Erika), Matt (Charlotte), Jeremy (Becky), Mylise (Bryan) and TJ (Aly); as well as 34 great-grandchildren. Mary also leaves many nieces, nephews and friends who loved her dearly.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband of 55 years, Millie, in 2003; son-in-law, Denis Chagnon; daughter-in-law, Barb Pasella; brothers, Jules “Joe” Goubert, Hubert Goubert and Emil Goubert; as well as two infant sisters; and her parents, Charles and Philomena (Muylaert) Goubert.
Visitation was at the Chagnon Funeral Home Saturday June 20. Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions for gatherings Mary’s funeral service will be private. Her final resting place will be at North Allis Township Cemetery. Those planning an expression of sympathy please consider a donation in memory of Mary to the Onaway Ambulance Equipment Fund, The Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation or St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.