July 3, 1923 – August 31, 2020
Mt. Pleasant resident Jean Roberts grew up on a farm in rural Iowa and attended Western Michigan University, where she played tuba in the symphony. She went on to teach physical education in Kalamazoo and at Comstock High School and later worked as a counselor in the Reed City schools. For 15 years, Roberts and her life partner Janet Bush operated J & J Leather.
Morning Sun, September 1, 2020
April 22, 1935 – January 6, 2018
Painter, sculptor, and pioneering filmmaker Jere Van Syoc graduated from Lincoln High in Ferndale. She went on to earn her B.A. and M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later taught at Western Michigan University and Nazareth College. In 1977, Van Syoc co-founded Aradia in Grand Rapids, where her home was known as “a palace for the goddess.” She died at age 82 in West Virginia.
High Lawn Funeral Home
Jere Van Syoc Collection at The Woman Behind the Camera
February 21, 1942 – November 15, 2011
Grand Rapids resident Martha VanderEyk immigrated from the Netherlands at age six with her family. She graduated from Kalamazoo Christian High School in 1960, attended Calvin College, and earned her Bacherlor’s in Music from Grand Valley State University. VanderEyke was employed as a business manager and was a longtime member, with her partner Leslie Kohn, of the Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus.
Grand Rapids Press, November 23, 2011
June 2, 1964 – July 2, 2018
Joseph Patrick Periard of Kalamazoo, formerly of Southfield, was born in Bay City and graduated from Bay City Western High School. He earned his Bachelor’s in computer science from Michigan Technological University and was later employed with Ford Credit in Detroit. In March 2017, Periard was united in marriage with Joseph Biron II, who survives him.
Kalamazoo Gazette, July 3, 2018
May 28, 1937 – July 13, 2014
Kalamazoo resident Patricia Ann Cutshaw was known as “Sport” at Richland High School, where she played on the basketball team all four years. She later worked for Gibson Guitar until Multiple Sclerosis forced her into retirement. Cutshaw was preceded in death by her life partner Nydia Nichols.
Betzler Funeral Homes
July 24, 1920 – February 12, 2008
Longtime Battle Creek resident Yvonne Phyllis Cushman graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and was that city’s first female bus driver. Her other jobs included working as a machinist in an electronics factory, operating a grocery, and caring for residents at Fort Custer State Home and the Muskegon Regional Facility. A Harley rider in the 1950s, Cushman also owned and showed Great Danes.
Battle Creek Enquirer, February 14, 2008
February 4, 1938 – February 27, 2009
Portia June Fagan was born in Kalamazoo, attended Richland High School, graduated from Western Michigan University, and had a long career as a tax preparer and real estate broker. In 1994, she came out as lesbian in the Kalamazoo Gazette to “break down stereotypes.” Fagan and her life partner Janice O’Dell retired to Arizona in the early 2000s.
Kalamazoo Gazette, March 11, 2009
November 4, 1951 – November 23, 2015
Linda Eileen Gesterling was born in Bixby Knolls, California and resided in Glendale, Arizona when she passed away. In the 1980s she lived in Lansing, where she was employed with the Social Security Administration and was a 1990 graduate of Michigan State University. Gesterling was survived by her spouse Lisa Howell.
Kalamazoo Gazette, December 1, 2015
September 23, 1948 – August 7, 2012
Kalamazoo nutritionist Diana Zhenhua Artz-Iffland earned her B.S. from Western Michigan University and her M.S. from Michigan State University. She was a longtime member of the People’s Church and, with her life partner River Artz-Iffland, was active in the pioneering local lesbian organization Lavender Morning. For 18 years the couple operated Pandora’s Books for Open Minds.
April 10, 1947 – February 4, 2018
Paulettia Ann French of Kalamazoo, originally from Arkansas, graduated with the class of 1965 from Berrien Springs High School and later worked as non-profit directors for senior services. French and her partner of 27 years Tammy Vollrath were married in 2016.
Kalamazoo Gazette, February 6, 2018