Janice A Merkle, “Ma”, “Granny”, at age 75, remained beautiful, incredibly strong, and completely selfless during her battle against cancer; she lost that fight in the early morning of January 18th, 2024. Ma passed away peacefully in her home that displayed definitions of her, and how beautifully put together she was with class, creativity, perseverance, and pizazz.
Leaving downriver in the late 1970’s our parents bought their house, that they would raise their children in, and build it into a beautiful representation of them both. For many years they put all their characteristics into the home, along with trying to make ends meet. They worked very hard in trying to provide for us, keeping food on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and bought us a swimming pool to have fun, which they gathered friends and family to enjoy.
Ma stayed at home for a great many years; she was always there for us. There was always a hot meal waiting or leftovers, she had an open ear to listen about our day, or anything we wanted to talk about. She would give advice and try to guide us in the right direction by sharing her own experiences. In fact, she was a confidant. She was such a genuine, loving person, that all our friends felt her welcoming nature and would confide in her. Ma would do what she could for someone in need. She would even pick them up from their house to get them away from any harm. She had an open door to her heart, to her love and you could feel it. She was just a beam of beautiful inviting light. Ma did not approve of wrongdoings-she had strong morals, and she had a way of letting you know, that what you did, wasn’t right.
Ma was resourceful, made us clothes as kids, strung popcorn for garland on the Christmas Tree, made large meals to stretch for a few days, and preserved fruits and vegetables through canning and blanching for many, many years. It was nice as a child to open a jar of home-made apple sauce to put on top of a potato pancake, sliced strawberries on shortcake or just in a bowl – relish (that was our Grandpa Haubrick’s favorite)- to top a pot roast with. All that she did to provide for us was heartfelt.
In the mid 1980’s, Ma wanted her independence, so she got a job at Truan’s Candie’s in Dearborn MI. She worked there for several years and applied that experience into making us some beautiful candy for holidays. She would make robin baskets out of coconut and chocolate and place blue candies inside for eggs. Pecan Turtles that would make your mouth water and chocolate covered raisins that tasted just like Raisinets, to name a few. Ma later changed jobs and went to work at Kentucky Fried Chicken, back then the products were made from scratch, coleslaw, gravy from cracklings, and buttermilk biscuits. Her biscuits were the best and the biggest – just how home-made should look. Ma loved to cook and bake and had a natural talent for it. From making anise candy (another one of our grandpa’s favorites) to cider stew, paprikash, pea soup, creamed peas (our Grandma Haubrick’s favorite) which her secret to the taste was adding a little bit of sugar, goulash, apple sausage stuffing, sweet potato soufflé (her favorite), macaroni and cheese, country hash browns, dinner rolls (that everyone loved). The list goes on, she cooked and baked a variety of amazing recipes that we will cherish and pass down for future generations to share and enjoy. The meals and baking items she prepared made you feel loved and at home – not to mention stuffed.
Ma did whatever she could for her children and grandchildren. She could see what potential you had and would push you towards it. She was always there offering advice and would try to pick you up in ways when you got kicked down. Ma always took care of us, even as adults, never let us or our children go without; that was her true nature. If she could help you, she would.
Ma is the true definition of STRENGTH. She overcame many obstacles; she did not let anything stop her when she put her mind to doing something. For all that she endured through her years, it molded her into a strong- minded individual that would take on the challenge and conquer it.
In the late 1980’s, our parents divorced, and Ma did everything in her power to make ends meet, to not lose anything and to continue taking care of us the best she could, just like always. Through the years, they had marital problems and to spite our father who loved her long hair, she would cut it off. This started a trend of many short hair changes that defined her spunky, brave, and fearless persona, and her way of saying, kiss my ass.
Ma was responsible, she followed rules, and made intelligent moves in her life. She was detailed organized and had a knack for accounting. She was diligent in record keeping and kept her filing in order. Ma kept love letters, all the cards she ever received, school and company ID’s, art projects when were kids, and any item a grand child gave to her. She held it close to her heart and left a part of her history for us to read and enjoy. Made us see that what people said to her or gave to her meant a lot and she cherished it – as we will always, and forever cherish her.
In the mid 1990’s, Ma went on to start her career in production to where she would take the experience to begin automotive production at Collins Aikman in the early 2000 making headliners and retired comfortably from Webasto in 2012.
Ma had an amazing-magnetic personality. She was quick-witted and perfected the use of sarcasm. If you thought you had her in what you said, she would have the ultimate comeback that you could not top or couldn’t stop laughing at. She was charming, with a contagious laugh, and loved the use of the middle finger just to get a smile out of you. There was a time during Christmas break that we went to Frank’s Nursey and Crafts, and someone cut us off in the parking lot for a parking spot, they got mad at her and flipped her off, so she gave it right back with holding both middle fingers up in the air, saying, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”. We all roared with laughter in the van!
Ma was brilliant with interior design, matching and blending colors with décor from inside the house and out; she had a gifted mind. She was brilliant in the garden and had amazing flower beds that color would just radiate throughout the yard; it felt magical and was magical. When she removed the pool, she built a pond and was just on fire with ideas. She spent a lot of her time in design and adding more and more flowers each season, it was truly amazing.
Somewhere in the 2000’s our parents started rekindling their love for each other, which they kept a secret from us for a couple of years. Our father eventually came back home to where he poured his heart and soul into the house and he beautified it for our mother with the intent to protect and preserve what they both held dear. He carried that through the entire yard. He built her an arbor that they planted a wisteria together and enjoyed sitting on the patio with their dogs. They loved their dogs, Lucy and Pepper. Lucy was a big lovable black lab mixed with hound that Ma adored that she sometimes called Lucifier and Pepper was a terrier that hunted everything in the yard and Ma called him a ratter. Those dogs only knew about love and good food. Ma loved dogs immensely, she rescued a poodle from across the street. She didn’t like how she was treated and when the opportunity arose to ask for the dog, she took it. Her name was Bella, and those two were best friends. Ma spoiled her rotten and shared her chair with her. They cuddled and watched TV together all the time. Ma loved to talk with her hands, when she was telling a story while holding Bella, the dog would go up and down in motion with her hands – too precious. Bella was a little butterball, never missed a meal. Both her and our brother Gary, loved her with all their heart– dressed her in cute outfits, groomed her and just spoiled her absolutely rotten. She leaves behind her two pups, Tessa and Wilson (both sister and brother) that are for just over a year old. She gave them all of her love, and enjoyed watching them grow as puppies and always took Wilson’s side against his sister – she called him her little boy, and would call Tessa, Tessa Marie and would refer to them both as fur babies. Wilson was her baby and Tessa’s is our brother’s Gary. She loved all of our pets, and would enjoy when we all shared stories and pictures about them.
Ma was just a beautiful, genuine, unswervingly true and wise person. She did not judge people for what they didn’t have and never felt the need to try to be someone other than herself and stayed true to that. She gave her heart and soul to her family, and always kept them safe. She will forever be thought of and never forgotten. She will be deeply and tremendously missed by those who knew and loved her; her children who will be lost without her; Gary Ferguson Jr., Kara (Ferguson) Solanick, and Erin Merkle. Her three grandchildren that she loved deeply and adored; Kailey & Hannah Solanick, and Joelle Franko; extended family; David Solanick, and Joseph Franko; Brother, Richard Haubrick and Sister, Susan (Haubrick) Gee; nieces Rachelle (Hargis) Haig and Holly (Gee) Green; her nephews, Richard Hargis and Benjamin Gee, along her beloved pets; Tessa and Wilson.
It is with great sadness to have lost our mother, and we all feel the pain deeply. We hold on to the love that she gave each and every one of us and look to her strength that she showed us all of the years to push and move herself and us forward. There will be a void that will be forever felt, but we will fill that void with loving each other and sharing the memories of both our parents and especially our mother. For none of us would be who we are without her, her influences, her sense of humor, intelligence, creativity, focus, and her bad ass selfless attitude of picking up the pieces to climb to and stay at the top. She was remarkable, and extraordinary and she will always shine a light on our hearts, mind, and souls.
Ma, we love you and know that you are in a beautiful perfect place, and we will meet again with arms open to thank you for being you and to thank you for the life that you built for us and how your love protected us all. You are and will always be an inspiration of true love and what it means to be a mother. You are our loving light.
Our father passed away in July of 2010. We would like to honor and remember him at this time as we will be placing his urn with our mothers in the niche at the time of the ceremony.
The ceremony will be held at Michigan Memorial February 3rd, 2024 at noon.