Laila M. Whitfield
June 1, 2023
GLADSTONE, Mich. - Laila M. Whitfield, 95, of Gladstone and a former Marquette resident, died in her sleep on May 2, 2023, at her home in Lakeview Assisted Living, with family by her bedside.
Laila was born on Dec. 1, 1927, the first child of Abel and Lempi (Niemi) Tassava, in Ironwood. She attended the Ironwood public schools, graduated from Luther L. Wright High School in 1945, and then from the Cook County School of Nursing in Chicago as a registered nurse in 1949.
She married Martin J. Hansen of Merrill, Wisconsin, in 1949. They lived in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Grand Marais and Marquette as they raised their four sons. Both Martin and Laila's mother, Lempi, died in 1967 in a tragic boating accident while fishing on Lake Superior.
In 1970, Laila married George P. Whitfield, a Northern Michigan University professor and a widower with four children. They lived in Harvey with their combined family of eight children, moved to a smaller house on Sandy Lane as the children left, and finally Laila and George relocated to a townhouse in Gladstone in 2001. George died in 2015, and Laila stayed in the Gladstone townhouse until 2018 when she moved to Lakeview Assisted Living.
Laila was a charter member of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Harvey, St. Mark's in Marquette, Bethany Lutheran Church in Perkins, and most recently of First Lutheran in Gladstone. She took great satisfaction in church activities, served on various councils, the altar guild, prepared food for funerals and events, and was always ready to call or visit the ill, homebound or bereaved.
Laila was active in many fields of nursing, but her first love was always obstetrics and newborn babies. She worked as director of nursing at St. Mary's hospital in Marquette; as office nurse with Dr. Robert Barry in his Marquette office; as nursing director at the Palmer Nursing Home; and as an RN at the Northern Michigan University student health center.
She loved African violets and for several years raised and sold beautiful plants, being known as the African Violet Lady at local flea markets.
Laila he was a writer, publishing many human interest stories for various newspapers and other publications, and she was a field interviewer for the National Opinion Research Center of Chicago.
She was also a 40-plus-year participant in the Harvard Nurses Study. And she was proud of her many gallons of blood donations!
Laila was an avid Scrabble player and especially enjoyed beating those of younger generations with fancy degrees. She loved to read, travel, garden, cook and bake for her family. Her biscuit is a longstanding tradition, enjoyed best when dunked in hot chocolate. She and George crisscrossed the U.S. and Canada from coast to coast and from Key West, Florida, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. She and her oldest son, Mike, traveled in South America to Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu, places she had studied long ago in geography class. Mountain scenery gave her the most pleasure while traveling.
Surviving Laila is one remaining son from her first marriage, Bob Hansen (Connie Helfat) of Hanover, New Hampshire, and his children Martina, Axel (Patricia Escoda Coll) and Luke Hansen. Also surviving Laila are her four stepchildren from her marriage to George Whitfield and all of their children: Sr. Stacy Whitfield of Ann Arbor; Lantz (Cindy) Whitfield of Marquette and their children Courtney Whitfield, Allison (JT) Blassingame, Lindsey (Rob) Morrow and Kaylee (Brent) Mather; Stephanie (Andrew) Buchinger of Lachine, and their children Michael (Katie) Buchinger, Tyler (Beth) Buchinger, Katy Mary Rose Buchinger and Ethan (Maddie Khuri) Buchinger; and Kevin (Jessica) Whitfield of Baltimore, Maryland, and their children Trevor and Ryan Whitfield. Three other sons from her first marriage preceded her in death: Mike, wife Bernadette and children Katrina (Ben Becker) Hansen and Laila (Chris) Vanhorn; Dave, children Sarah (Devon) Farlow and Cole (Sonja) Hansen; and Andy, children Lisa (Dave) Rapson and Emily (Ben) Conner. That makes 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, with two more on the way! Laila never missed sending $2 bills to all of her cherished grandchildren for birthdays and special occasions.
Also surviving Laila are her sister, Phoebe (Harold) Ordway of Indian River; and brother, Roy (Carol) Tassava of Topinabee; her late sister Evelyn's husband, Bob Nystrom of Marquette; her brother-in-law from her first marriage, Gordon Hansen; and numerous nieces and nephews. Besides Evelyn, Laila was also preceded in death by two other sisters, Esther Hay of Ironwood and Hilma Knoblauch of Peoria, Arizona.
Following Laila's wishes, she has been cremated, and there will be a memorial service this summer during the family's annual reunion. Interment will be in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Grand Marais, with her first husband, Martin; and son, Andy.
Please make memorial contributions to the food pantry of your choice.
Skradski Funeral Home of Gladstone is helping the family with arrangements.