D E A D
Kay Britton (April 17, 1934 - February 27, 2019)
(This headline is a tribute to Kay’s father-in-law, Lloyd Britton, who collected obituaries as a child in the early 1900’s)
Kay Britton died Wednesday, February 27th surrounded by four generations of loved ones, laughter, tears, food, piano, some gentle wisecracks, songs from ‘Softly and Tenderly’ to ‘Mairzy Doats,’ and boundless love. She said “let’s go home,” and then she went. She is preceded in death by her parents, David and Katherina Jardine. She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Charles E. Britton; her sister, Marge Koss; her sister in-law, Joanne Britton; her children, Kathryn (Jonathan) Mays, David (Mona) Britton, Karen (Scott) Golovich, Neil (Kate) Britton, and Charles M. (Michelle) Britton ; her grandchildren, Ian (Monica) Mays, Sarah (Amos) Mays , Kristin Belfy, Rebekah (David) Moser, David (Maddie) Mays, Jason (Cristy) McMullen, Erik (Nichole) McMullen, Jeffrey (Tiffany) Golovich, Mathew Golovich, Michael Britton, Elizabeth (Josh) Britton, Adam, Lucas; fourteen great grandchildren and one great great grandchild, adoring nieces and nephews and a community of love.
Born Catherine Mathie Jardine on April, 17th, 1934, she was known throughout her life as Kay, mom, mother, Granny, Great-Granny, and beloved first-grade teacher Mrs. Britton. She brought the same indomitable spirit, kindness, and humor to her home as in her classroom.
Kay grew up gardening with her dad and always had a vegetable and rose garden. Her grandchildren, children, and husband followed her lead here and in most of the daily routines. She ran the household like a choir director, and it’s good for you to know that she loved the marches of John Philip Sousa. Around the house, she hummed these march melodies with frequent percussive outbursts that, during the summer, would often be accompanied by pots and pans to wake up late sleepers for pancake breakfasts.
Music was a gift given to her by her parents, Ina and David, who had met singing in the same choir. Similarly, Kay would sing one day next to her future husband, Charles Britton, who was the high school football co-captain with incredible waves in his hair. Along with her younger sister, Marjorie, Kay sang hymns with her parents around the piano every weekend. Her parents encouraged Kay to train as a classical pianist, and she performed music during her teenage years before deciding to study elementary education at Wayne State. After marrying and finishing up college, Charles and Kay settled into the life of teachers and parents as they welcomed five children over the span of 13 years and three communities. Moving from the Dearborn area to Livonia and finally to their favorite part of the world: Charlevoix.
Trading life in the suburbs for a 100-year-old farmhouse and no experience farming, the Britton bunch found their way around rural northern Michigan teaching and falling hard into agriculture. On a mission to educate, Kay indulged her eager children as they begged to save a neighboring cow who was headed to slaughter. “This could be a great learning experience, we can breed the cow, and Chuck, you can milk it, and they can see where a calf comes from. We would have our own butter, milk and ice cream!” And really, if you’ve met Chuck, you know that ice cream is what sold him. The Britton’s became farmers.
The perfect marriage of ”I love Lucy” and “Green Acres” the Britton’s farm wouldn’t have survived without the help of amazing and experienced farming neighbors such as the Wielands. From 20 chickens living in the bathroom off the kitchen in January after a “great deal” purchase without a chicken coop, to the regular neighborly alerts that the cows were on the road again, there was never a dull moment.
As a teacher, Kay took on every challenge with aplomb. During a period of budgetary restraints, the district made the weird decision to save money by cutting electricity in the hallways during school hours. Kay took it up with the administration citing that the 1st graders were scared to walk down the dark corridors. Always the creative and able to make something fun out of any situation, she donned a miners cap and walked the children through the hallway-caves. She carried this positive, take-charge outlook for her whole teaching career, but retirement came earlier than planned.
At the young age of 62, Kay was the first person to name her illness, she knew she had Alzheimer’s before her diagnoses - that’s not the way things usually go, but Kay was never one to follow a trend. Kay devoted the first ten years to retirement and extensive genealogy about her family history, a gift to all of us. There is nothing fun or lighthearted about this cruel disease, yet Granny found ways to make light of the darkest days. In the early years, she would occasionally pretend to have forgotten that Chuck gave her money for a shopping trip with her daughters, only to take more cash while giving the girls a wink and a pat on her pocket where all her secret loot was hiding. Only Granny could find humor in this hardship, and let me tell you, she never lost that, not even at the very end.
Kay was cared for in love first by her devoted husband Charles (Chuck, or on sassy Granny days, “Charlie”). She was loved every second through her life, deeply and entirely through the joys and through the pain. Support from their small groups and bible studies alongside family allowed Chuck to care for Kay with autonomy for many years. The transition from independence to full support was grueling. Live-in family help allowed Kay to stay home for as long as possible safely. Eventually, the need for a care facility arrived, and the call came in that her room was ready at Grandvue Medical Care Facility.
A new home. In many ways, another family. Grandvue cared for our Granny for more than 2 ½ years, but far more than meeting her basic needs, Grandvue cared for our family - particularly our Grandpa as he walked this path with his wife every single day. Granny took her transition from home to home in typical granny stride. That very first day, in moments of lucidity, we saw her panic, we saw her anger, but then we saw her find her footing. We watched as she assessed her new “classroom” and became, once again, the teacher. She passed a woman crying in her wheelchair, and before we knew it, her rush to find the escape door was replaced with her tender hand cupping the cheek of another frightened woman “ it’s okay, it’s okay, it’s going to be okay. I love you”, and we knew that she was right. It was going to be okay.
It’s easy to question why such a remarkable person would be riddled with 22 years of an illness like this, but if you ask her husband he would tell you that the Lord had work to do through Kay, and if you ask me, I think that she would agree with that. A teacher her life-long, a teacher still.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, March 6, 2019, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Winchester Chapel. A funeral is scheduled for 11:00 a.m., Thursday, March 7, 2019 at Community Reformed Church, Charlevoix, with visitation starting at 10am and a luncheon to follow. Rev. Jonathan Mays will officiate the ceremony. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Kay’s life. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Grandvue Medical Care Facility, East Jordan, Michigan. Condolences may be sent to www.mortensenfuneralhomes.com. The family would like to thank the caregivers at Grandvue for their loving care of Kay and Chuck.