Marcella Turula Michel, 97, died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Chicago on January 2, 2021. She was born on April 29, 1923 in Ely, Minnesota, the youngest and last surviving of ten children born to Finnish immigrants John Turula, an iron miner, and Maria Liisa Jaakola Turula, a temperance activist and speaker. After graduating from Ely Junior College in 1943, Marcella resolved not to become a teacher as four of her siblings had. Inspired by her late mother, who at age 19 came to America on her own, using the ticket of a mail order bride who changed her mind, she enrolled in an engineering training program at the Wright Aircraft plant in Paterson, New Jersey. She had not previously been further from Ely than an uncle’s farm in Wisconsin. At Wright she worked on bomber engines. Although she did not become an engineer, she met her husband, Donald J. Michel, a young engineer from Buffalo, and brought him home to Ely where they married on June 10, 1944 after a three month courtship conducted mostly in New York City.
They settled in Cleveland where Donald was recruited to the NACA and was inducted, on paper, into the Army. Their three children were born in Cleveland. Donald’s career took them to Baltimore and then Lombard, IL. After the birth of her youngest child, Marcella decided that she did want to be a teacher and resumed her education. In 1961 she began teaching elementary school on a provisional certificate in Woodridge, IL. After attending classes on evenings, weekends and summer sessions at five colleges and universities, she received her degree in 1968 from Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College. She and Donald divorced in 1969 and he died in 2000.
Marcella taught mostly 6th grade at two schools in the Woodridge district for 26 years. A beloved dedicated and innovative teacher, she had her students performing Shakespeare plays in costume. She was honored by her district when she retired in 1987. She had an active retirement, swimming regularly into her 80s and even scraping paint and wallpaper during the renovation of the building her daughter and son bought. An avid reader, she participated in book groups and read the Chicago Tribune every day. When macular degeneration and cataracts took away most of her vision, she read the large print weekly New York Times with her magnifying glass. She remained connected with the world via cable news. A life-long Democrat, she proudly cast her mail in ballot in the 2020 election, the 20th consecutive presidential election in which she cast her ballot.
She relished participating in the lives of her grandchildren and the greatest joy of her final years was the birth of her great grandchildren. Oliver and Rosalind were able to visit her and she followed the growth of Isabelle, born on Marcella’s 97th birthday, via enlarged prints of the photographs sent by her parents.
Her daughter Susan Michel predeceased her. She is survived by her sons Timothy (Amy Laiken), Chicago, IL, and Peter (Polly), Las Vegas, NV; grandchildren Christian (Meagan), Wilbraham, MA, Ellen and Ethan; Haverhill MA; great grandchildren Oliver, Rosalind and Isabelle; and eleven nieces and nephews. A celebration of her life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Working in the Schools (WITS), 641 W Lake St #200, Chicago, IL 60661, witschicago.org. Arrangements by John E. Maloney Funeral Home, 1359 W Devon Ave, Chicago, IL 60660.
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Working in the Schools (WITS)
641 W. Lake Street, #200, Chicago IL 60661