MARQUETTE, MI – Naomi A. Guelff, age 94, of Marquette, entered eternal life Saturday, July 17, 2021, at Brookridge Heights Assisted Living, in the loving comforting care of her family.
Naomi Aileen (Zerbel) Guelff was born in Marquette, on February 13, 1927, to Harvey and Hazel (Bowman) Zerbel. She was 94 (her age she referred to as classified information). She attended school in Marquette, then at the age of 17, moved with a few girlfriends to Daytona Beach, Florida where she resided at the YWCA, while attending cosmetology classes. On returning to Marquette, she met and married John Guelff, Jr. (Jack), at the old First Baptist Church on Ridge Street on April 5, 1952. She was a Air Force military wife and said she always had to keep her suitcases packed. After being stationed in New Mexico Jack was sent to Weisbaden, Germany in 1953. Naomi traveled to be with him taking a teething 9 month old daughter, Keren, alone on several plane flights and a harrowing journey across the English Channel. They lived in Germany for three years, until being stationed at Kinross AFB and living in Grand Marais. They built their first home with relatives on Green Garden Road, on land from the original Zerbel farm, where they lived for several years. The next tour of duty sent them to Utrecht, Holland with daughters, Keren and baby Renee. She loves to tell the story about when 2 year old Renee was waved to by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at a parade in front of the Queen’s castle. They were next sent to France where Jack and Naomi saw the Champs-Elysees, saw the Follies, brought the children to the Eiffel Tower, and they all ate snails. While in Europe, she visited Belgium where the Guelff family originated, then Denmark and the first Lego village where legos were invented. They also went to the Hans Christian Anderson Museum. Returning to Marquette from Europe while Jack was stationed at Watertown, New York, Naomi and the girls lived with her parents in the family home on Longyear Avenue. When Jack retired they moved to their home on Ridge Street where Naomi resumed her cosmetology career teaching at the Beauty Academy and then for NMU’s Cosmetology Department. Naomi then got into real estate, buying her first rental property with her mother. She then purchased several more properties. She loved being a landlady and was a member of the Marquette Land Owners Association. She always said she was going to write a book about her rental experiences over the years, but no one would believe it. Naomi received a lifetime achievement award as a board member of the Salvation Army and her favorite mission there was the lunch program. She also loved being a member of the Red Hat Society. She was a supporter of UPAWS and had two poodles, Davy Dumpling and Demetrius. She was a member of the Marquette Restoration Beautification Committee and every August they had a picnic at her cottage on Lakewood Lane. She brought all her grandchildren in town to see Petunia Pandemonium while she loved to teach them and other children how to plant petunias.
She was a Hiawatha Music Co-op lifetime member, attending the first Hiawatha Music Festival in 1979, in Champion, before festivals were at the Tourist Park. She only missed one or two throughout the years. Naomi was in her late 70’s when she purchased a small motorhome which she camped with at the Tourist Park. She always liked to visit, wanted a burnt hotdog and smores at the outside campfire. She especially enjoyed the Sunday Gospel Hour at the Festival. Naomi and Jack were frequent donors with gifts to the Peter White Public Library where his father-in-law, John, Sr. was one of the original Board of Trustees. Naomi was an excellent seamstress, making many of her own clothes including her wedding dress, made her children’s dolls clothes, and made her children wear homemade outfits in the latest 70’s styles. She enjoyed rummage sales with grandson, Justin, attending, Christmas bazaars and teas with granddaughter, Teresa. She went to every auction she could and many times would ask her son-in-law, Tracy, to pick up her treasures and put them in her various properties so Jack wouldn’t know. She enjoyed crafts and had many projects with glue guns, flowers, ribbons, making wreaths and little Christmas trees. She kept a tree lit year-round at the house and camp changing the decorations with the seasons. She enjoyed flower arranging classes at Forsberg Flowers and many cooking classes with Marquette Community Schools. She loved fancy parties and dressing up, wearing high heels as long as she could. She went to all the concerts, plays and musicals her daughter, Renee, was in and supported the Lake Superior Theater. She supported Jack in all his years of AA, and her church hosted the only non-smoking group at that time. She often sent “treats” from Jack for his Wednesday night group after his passing.
She was a member of the First Baptist Church her whole life, serving as Deaconess, Sunday School teacher, on the Advisory Board, and as a Trustee, Women’s Missionary Society helping with their rummage and bake sales. She enjoyed her camp, hosting many gatherings for family and friends. On her bucket list, was to go skinny dipping with her friends she had since kindergarten, but fortunately that didn’t happen. One bucket list dream was crossed when she went on a Harley ride with a “hunk”, at 91. She had various Lincolns and Caddy’s over the years and was really pleased when great grandchild, Autumn, is driving her last one. She was lovingly cared for 10 years by Sue (VanBuren) Ninnis, her friend and partner in crime, who took her on many road trips often in Sue’s Camero with the top down. Her musical tastes ran from Willie Nelson and Freddy Fender to Englebert and Elvis. She loved Gospel Hour on PBS, which she and Jack supported over the years.
A grateful thanks to Brookridge Heights for the care these past two years. The girls who polished her nails with crazy polish, braided her hair, time in the courtyard, and bingo with Steve, but above all the hugs she gave and received during Covid. They were family because of restrictions so they all became very close. Breaking her hip and both femurs in the past years was too much for her even though she was a very determined (and German) lady. She left us as she always said, “while I still know my own name and where I live” am blessed. Also, eat dessert first, life is uncertain”. She has gone to heaven where she is having all the date nights she wants with Jack.
Naomi was preceded in death by her parents; husband; sister, Iris; two infant brothers and son-in-law, Eero Niemi, Jr.
She is survived by daughters, Keren (Tracy) Smith and Renee (John) Robertson; grandchildren, Keven and Teresa Niemi, Justin Guelff, Brannon (Cassandra) Smith; step-grandchildren, Jay, Danielle, Jeff, Rob; great-grandchildren, Autumn, Luke, Evan, Drake; step great-grandchildren, Steve, Tiffany, Tiegrin, Franklin, and Henry.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the First Baptist Church, 728 W. Kaye Avenue, Marquette, on Friday, July 23. Visitation will begin at 5:00 pm, until the time of service at 7:00 pm. Pastor Chad Mager will officiate. A reception will follow in the church fellowship hall. Interment will be made in the Park Cemetery.
Fassbender Swanson Hansen Funeral and Cremation Services is serving the family, where condolences may be expressed online at fassbenderswansonhansen.com.