Family Login:

Martha Gilmore Parfet

Martha Gilmore Parfet
  • October 1, 1925 - February 20, 2017
  • Gull Lake (Hickory Corners), Michigan
  • Kalamazoo Nature Center
    7000 N. Westnedge Avenue
    Kalamazoo, MI 49009
  • Kalamazoo Insitue of Arts
    314 S. Park Street
    Kalamazoo, MI 49007
  • YWCA of Kalamazoo
    353 East Michigan Avenue
    Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Share This Obituary

Send Flowers
 Local Florists

Memories & Candles

“With sincere sympathy, I am saddened to hear of Martha's passing. I had just mentioned Martha to a friend yesterday who had recently relocated to...Read More »
1 of 43 | Posted by: Kathy Andes - Avon Lake, OH

“Deepest condolences to your family from ours. So sorry for your loss. Hope to see you all soon. ”
2 of 43 | Posted by: Scott Rednor - Vail, CO

“Deepest sympathies from the family of Allen and Lisa Hibner. We were related through ancestry, and appreciate Martha's work in preserving our shared...Read More »
3 of 43 | Posted by: Lisa Hibner - Penfield, NY

“Martha was a beautiful person who treated everyone the same regardless of their standing in Life...she was a very special lady ”
4 of 43 | Posted by: Peter Slater - Mattawan, MI

“Laurie and I would like to send our love and prayers to all of Martha's family. We are sadden of the news of Martha's passing and will miss her...Read More »
5 of 43 | Posted by: Chilly and Laurie Smith - Midland, MI

“Sorry for your loss ”
6 of 43 | Posted by: Joseph Baldwin - MI

“So sad ”
7 of 43 | Posted by: Amanda Bradshaw - MI

“I remember her sitting and the kwings games her and Ted where wonderful people she will be missed. ”
8 of 43 | Posted by: Amanda Bradshaw - Paw paw, MI

“LaWanda and I were privileged to be part of the family and friends group that Martha spoke to the night she unveiled the copies of the family history...Read More »
9 of 43 | Posted by: Peter Roudebush - Davenport, IA

“Bill, Don, Sally, Janet, and families, you have my deepest sympathy. Her huge love of family, friends, neighbors, and nature taught us all so very...Read More »
10 of 43 | Posted by: Catherine Virgo Marshall

“I had the honor & privilege of working with Martha as her assistant at the Acorn corporate office. She was the first person to show me what true...Read More »
11 of 43 | Posted by: Jillian Green - Kalamazoo, MI

“Martha taught us well how the lead and care for others in many ways. Her vision to build the community and preserve nature will continue on. A great...Read More »
12 of 43 | Posted by: Shawn and Nancy Hagen - Kalamazoo, MI

“I am so sorry. She will be sorely missed. I discussed horses with her at Aunt Mary's birthday party. I am Janet Upjohn's eldest. ”
13 of 43 | Posted by: Janet Tad Beck - Ellicott City, MD

“Her light shall shine on. ”
14 of 43 | Posted by: Kristi Lloyd - Hickory Corners

“Goodbyes are for those love with their eyes.Because those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation . ”
15 of 43 | Posted by: K. D. - Kalamazoo

“After Kalamazoo's Tornado of 1980, I became the proud owner or Mart Parfet's 1973 Pontiac Luxury LeMans, better known as the Mustard Monster. It...Read More »
16 of 43 | Posted by: Norman (Gil) Bristol - Westford, MA

17 of 43 | Posted by: Cindy & Vince Continenza - NC

“I remember when I took care of Granny, Martha was so kind to me. When dinner was served we all ate together, it didn't matter who you were, you...Read More »
18 of 43 | Posted by: Barbara Van Fulpen - Portage, MI

“Martha's Family members: My heart felt sympathy to everyone of you. What a wonderful women. I had the honor to meet her and Ted when working as an...Read More »
19 of 43 | Posted by: Linda Wisser-Fox - Kalamazoo, MI

“I use to go to Martha's house on short Road as a child in the early 60's. I lived on Wheaton Avenue and we would Trick or Treat. The family was so...Read More »
20 of 43 | Posted by: Roxanne Rewalt-Fluent - MI

“I met the lady for the first time and I can say she was a great human being. She was very engaging, funny sense of humor and curious with a big smile...Read More »
21 of 43 | Posted by: Nehdi MA - Tryon, NC

“My deepest sympathies to the Parfet family. I didn't know Martha for very long but am so glad I had the pleasure of meeting her. I had the wonderful...Read More »
22 of 43 | Posted by: Mary Haskin - Portage, MI

“An amazing woman. I am blessed to have known her. ”
23 of 43 | Posted by: Lori Andrews

“Martha [and Ted] were two of my favorite clients. I always looked forward to walking the grounds a few times a year with Martha to discuss the...Read More »
24 of 43 | Posted by: Dick Stap - Monterey, CA

“Our sincere condolences to you and your familyLou Anne Galinet and family ”
25 of 43 | Posted by: - Kalamazoo, MI

“Dear Family - My deepest sympathy on your loss. Martha Parfet's spirit is part of the fabric of this great community. She will be amongst us,...Read More »
26 of 43 | Posted by: Judy Markusse Paget - Kalamazoo, MI

“Dear Bill, Don and all the family. I have known and admired Martha all my life and we have gotten to know her much closer in recent years. She was...Read More »
27 of 43 | Posted by: Jack and Joanne Lawrence - Naples, FL

“My deepest sympathy to Bill and Don, my "old" sailing friends. ”
28 of 43 | Posted by: Gene McCarthy - St. Petersburg, FL

“Dear family, My deepest sympathy for your loss. Mrs. Pareft was an amazing woman. Your mother (your family) have touched so many, in such positive...Read More »
29 of 43 | Posted by: Linda Czapla - Kalamazoo, MI

“Gone From Sight by Henry Van Dyke. I am standing upon the seashore. A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts for...Read More »
30 of 43 | Posted by: Kimberly Earnshaw - Kalamazoo, MI

“Please accept my deepest sympathy, I am so very sad. I knew Martha only the last 3 years, and I really loved her. She was funny, kind and she...Read More »
31 of 43 | Posted by: Sheri Masters - Kalamazoo, MI

“A gracious, caring woman, who will be missed by all. ”
32 of 43 | Posted by: dick boris - augusta, MI

“My deepest sympathy to your family at such a difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you. May you find some comfort and peace from the God...Read More »
33 of 43 | Posted by: DD - GA

“Deepest sympathy to the Parfet family. A great lady that will truly be missed. ”
34 of 43 | Posted by: Ken & Michelle Bowditch - Paw Paw, MI

“Growing up I worked for Mrs. Partet's parents in Harbor Springs, MI. Mr. and Mrs. Parfet were of course frequent guests. Kalamazoo is so very...Read More »
35 of 43 | Posted by: David Rhine - Quincy, MI

“Martha, you have touched the lives of many, for which we are truly blessed. Your generiousty, compassion and enduring ways have made usall, much the...Read More »
36 of 43 | Posted by: Jim Woodman - Paw Paw, MI

“What a woman! I was honored to get to know Martha Parfet while serving as the President of the Gull Lake Quality Organization. Martha was a...Read More »
37 of 43 | Posted by: Anne Couture - Richland, MI

“Kalamazoo's loss is Heaven's gain. Martha was the epitome of a philanthropist. ”
38 of 43 | Posted by: Mr. Kim "Mac" MacKellar Formerly of Kalamazoo - FL

“Sympathies and prayers to the family and friends of Mrs. Parfet. So sorry to hear of her passing. ”
39 of 43 | Posted by: Mike VanBuren - Richland, MI

“Our deepest sympathy in the passing of Martha. She was a vibrant, caring and spirited woman who used her life to the fullest in helping others and...Read More »
40 of 43 | Posted by: Craig and Mary Jbara - Kalamazoo, MI

“Our sympathies to the Parfet family ”
41 of 43 | Posted by: Larry Moss - West bloomfield, MI

“Sincere condolences to all of Martha's friends and family. She was a very important part of this community, and very humble about her contributions. ”
42 of 43 | Posted by: Suzanne Trenkle - South Haven, MI

“I worked for Martha and Ted at Wings Stadium in 1999, as "Slappy" their mascot. They then leased the stadium to another hockey team owner from MN....Read More »
43 of 43 | Posted by: Lynda Stewart - Portage, MI


Martha, age 91, passed away on Monday, February 20th, at her home in Hickory Corners, Michigan, following a brief illness. She was surrounded by her family.

Martha was born on October 1st, 1925, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was the youngest daughter of Donald and Genevieve Upjohn Gilmore, and the granddaughter of Upjohn Company founder W.E. Upjohn (Rachel), and Gilmore Brothers Department Store founder James F. Gilmore (Carrie). Martha was preceded in death by her husband, Ray T. "Ted" Parfet, Jr.; her sisters, Carol Boudeman and Jane Maloney; and grandson Kiley Johnson.

Martha or Mart was an energetic and passionate woman with a diverse set of interests. She was deeply connected to the natural world with special interests in birds, water quality and all initiatives to preserve our precious environment. She was very committed to her family; always eager to encourage, nourish or discipline her children, nieces, nephews and their countless friends. She was also deeply involved in her community. Citizen Martha could easily envision progressive change and would motivate her friends and neighbors to join in her efforts to build a better community.

Martha attended Western State Normal School (the "Training School") through the tenth grade. She graduated from Dana Hall Preparatory School in Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1944. Martha attended the University of Michigan until she withdrew to start her family.

Summers at Gull Lake served as the backdrop for many happy occasions during Martha's childhood and adolescence. Surrounded by sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles, Martha ran barefoot and free. As a small child, she enjoyed building dams along the beach and hunting for turtles with her cousin Jim Gilmore. As a teenager, she developed a passion for horses – a passion she shared with her cousin Sue DeLano (Parish) and good friend Ted Parfet.

For several weeks over the course of three summers, Martha and her pals visited a cattle ranch owned by friends of her parents in Birney, Montana. She travelled by train, making the journey West with her prized saddle. Martha treasured her time helping the ranchers and cowboys round up the cattle for branding, and forever regarded it as a highlight of her life.

As WWII was coming to an end, Ted Parfet made a brief trip to Gull Lake to propose marriage to Martha. Throughout Ted's military service they had a practice of writing, each using the pseudonym "Frank" to underscore the very open and honest relationship they had developed. On October 6, 1945, "Frank and Frank" were married in Martha's family home on Short Road in Kalamazoo. Their marriage of 61 years was one of deep admiration, devotion and adventure. Their love for life was infectious to all who ever met them.

A strong love for nature was instilled in Martha from a young age. In the early 1960s, Martha was asked by Dr. Lewis Batts to assist with the formation of what is now the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Martha was an active board member for over twenty years and took great pleasure in watching her children and grandchildren continue in service to the institution.

She was an enthusiastic environmentalist and bird watcher. She never lost her ability to identify a bird from its call or markings. It was not unusual for Martha to reach for her binoculars in order to identify a bird she spied out the window of her Gull Lake home. In later years, she nurtured butterfly gardens and was committed to providing the milkweed necessary to ensure successful migration by the endangered monarch butterfly. Nature's gifts never ceased to delight her.

As a child, Martha watched her parents and extended family participate in the community and serve on the boards of cultural and civic institutions. As an adult, Martha followed in their footsteps. She served several terms on the board of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, which was established in the early twentieth century with a seed grant from her maternal grandfather. In addition, she served on the boards of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and the W.E. Upjohn Institute, among others.

For two decades, Martha ran the family department store, Gilmore Brothers, later Gilmore's, a responsibility that she was honored to assume from her uncle, Irving S. Gilmore, in 1984. It was during this period that she became an ardent supporter of downtown Kalamazoo. A member of the Downtown Development Authority during the 1980s and 1990s, she helped lead the redevelopment of the downtown business district.

Martha was a longtime stalwart supporter of the Kalamazoo YWCA, and was one of their early Lifetime Women of Achievement Award winners.

When Martha was in her eighties, her youngest child, Jane, interviewed her over the course of a week about her childhood memories. Reminiscing led to more reminiscing, and before long, Martha was not only writing about her own life, but researching and writing the stories of those who came before her. At the age of 89, and in a significant collaboration with Mary Corcoran, she published a family history and memoir, the title of which – Keep the Quality Up – pays homage to the motto coined by W.E. Upjohn during the early years of The Upjohn Company.

During the course of editing her own life story, Martha assigned herself the task of toning down or striking completely the parts in which she reflected on what a wonderful life it had been, how lucky and fulfilled she felt – her fear being that others would find it "corny."

Martha's greatest joy was spending time with her family. She was Mom, Grandma, Grandma Mart, Aunt Mart and more. Martha will always be remembered by friends and family for her grace, kindness, and her generous and loving spirit. From beginning to end, she lived her life with relentless positivity and an excellent sense of humor.

Martha is survived by her four children (in-laws): William (Barbara) Parfet, Sally Williams, Donald (Ann) Parfet, and Jane Parfet. Martha's surviving grandchildren (great-grandchildren) are Theodore Parfet (Alexander), Genevieve and Jay Gudebski (Taylor), Robert and Meredith Parfet (Morrison and