Ann Marie Gagnon Wiltsie
Visitation Friday October 26th from 3:00pm ~ 9:00pm
Fred Wood Funeral Home ~ Rice Chapel
36100 Five Mile Rd. Livonia (E. of Levan)
Funeral Saturday October 27th
Presided over by Msgr. Ronald Browne
St. Gerald Catholic Church 21300 Farmington Rd, Farmington, MI 48336
In-State 10:30am Mass 11:00am
In lieu of flowers, the family wishes donations to be made to:
Popeye Animal Cancer Foundation
1776 Latham, Birmingham MI 48009
Born August 29, 1925. She was the mother of 13 children, 11 surviving, and widow to William Wiltsie Sr. (deceased 2011.) Each of her children, William (Karen), Kathryn, Mary Ellen Skene, Thomas, Barbara, Rosemary Milliken (Larry), Charles, David (Deena), Joseph (Denise), Paul and Patricia had different qualities and served her soul with their own unique capabilities. Not only was there a creation of a 24-hour caretaking schedule, each gave of themselves in countless ways, including sharing their own irreplaceable special gifts of love.
Grandma to 24: Elizabeth, Christina, Matthew, Erin Skene-Pratt (Doug), Catherine Skene, Abigail Youngerman, Ann Marie and Laura Milliken, James Bryant, Jennifer Bryant-Egli (Nick), Brett, Michael, Daniel Leith (Alexis), Lauren Leith-Bateman (Evan), Sara Wiltsie-Smith (Brad), Emily, Hannah, and Cody Fackender (Rayna). Great-Grandma to 8: Evan, Alyssa, Katelyn, Landon, Liam, Jayden, Noah, and Griffin. She celebrated her grandchildren’s successes and inquired about their health and happiness, attended their marriages and enjoyed the prospect of new babies (Griffin on October 16) and adding grand-in-laws, especially the upcoming nuptials of Abbey & John and Emily & Josh.
All holidays were important to both Ann and Bill. Christmas, though, was a spectacle to see. Purchasing gifts for 11 children was no small feat and there always seemed to be several gifts under the tree for each. Photos of Christmases past show presents piled high around the tree reaching outward and upward by almost 3 ft. This generosity of spirit, carried on for the grandchildren, made the holiday extremely crowded in the homestead’s 15 X 20 living room. Holiday dinners would then be just as crowded if all 40+ were home. On the other hand, if less than 20 were present, it didn’t seem the same.
Ann was the youngest daughter of 9 and was the last remaining sibling, having lost her older 99-year-old sister, Patricia, last year. She grew up on the west side of Detroit, having attended Esterbrook grade school and Northwestern HS. She and Bill met through her brothers as children, but did not start dating until after the war. They married on August 7, 1948 at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Detroit with a reception at the Dearborn Inn.
Their first home was a duplex on Philadelphia street in Detroit. They moved to Livonia in 1952 purchasing the Mayfield Street home and its large yard – big enough for summer softball games and winter ice ponds. The house was originally a one-bedroom farm house, onto which Bill, along with family members, built an addition of 4 more rooms.
Ann was an at-home mother after getting married. During WWII, she worked as a secretary for the Army Intelligence in Detroit. Entrusted to secrets, she never spoke much of those days other than having worked for Captain James Vernor, III. of the Detroit Vernor family. Once the war ended, she was sought out, via her secretarial school instructor, by Vernor to come work for him as his private secretary for the family company. Her time with the company had additional stories she rarely shared; again, understanding the importance of privacy for those she worked side by side.
After the children were old enough to go to school on their own, she would help Bill out with his business at the food brokerage. Ann was both a sacristan and Catechism teacher for St. Aidan Catholic Church of Livonia for many years. She bowled when the children were young, was on the women’s golf league at Farmington Country Club, and was a competitive pinochle player for several decades with her women friends. She had a soft spot for the family dogs, especially her recently deceased beloved, Belle. An avid reader prior to her failing eyesight,
Ann loved reading the classics when young and then the books of David Baldacci, Clive Cussler. It was common for her to finish a book in a few days and always on the search for another. Her children admired her intellect and grasp of grammar and language, knowing she would give corrections in speech and writing.
Her children have fond memories of smelling the percolating coffee in the early wintry morning hours while she sent her children off to catch the bus to Our Lady of Sorrows School, as well as Tyler Elementary around the corner. Raising 11 children was not an easy task. She often rescued her children: replacing panes of glass, visiting their teachers, the nuns, and the Principals of their schools, and steadfastly defending her children when unjustly reprimanded.
Songs Ann taught her children: anything and everything recorded by Frank Sinatra, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, and all the greats from that time period. It was a rare moment to not have music playing from her radio; a memory they all have since childhood. From the solidstate radio to the Bose Bluetooth Soundlink playing music from her favorite station, “Siriusly Sinatra,” her children had an opportunity to share her love of the Great American Songbook and the singers who made them well-loved. “That Old Feeling” with Frank and the crying sax was one of her many favorites.
The family and she played the card game ‘Old Maid’ each night – most times 2-hours at a time since the summer months – hoping it would help with keeping her mind sharp and spirit alive. There were the usual funny moments during the games: helping her ‘win’ at times, encouraging her to pass that “ol’ girl” along in order to keep the game going (at times slyly passing that unwanted card along to her opponent with wonderful humor), making up additional names for the characters on the cards, singing songs such as “Shuffle off to Buffalo” and “Thank You Very Much,” and all laughing at just about anything. In the evening hours she insisted on watching her ‘boyfriend,’ Steve Harvey, and the “Family Feud” and “Ninja Warriors.” Chip and Joanna of “Fixer Upper” was her usual early morning wake up television show.
Her final days were met with great care and love by her children. She was never alone; all took turns to sit by her side in the family home holding a hand, rubbing her feet, doing whatever was needed to make her comfortable. Under the watchful eye of Pope St. John Paul II, she passed away on his Feast Day of October 22nd with her children at her side, not knowing her end was near, but knowing she was well-loved and cared for.
Ann’s family would like to thank the following who took great care of her and showed extreme kindness this past year: Dr. Antonio Capone, Retinal Specialist, Dr. Muhammad Ehtesham, Internist, Dr. Eric Sargent, Michigan Ear Institute, Dr. Subburaman Sivakumar from the Novi Lakes Health Center, and especially her week day morning companions who treated her like she was their own mother, Veronique and Elizabeth.