Denise Kay Gefre, age 57, of Ypsilanti, Michigan, passed away peacefully on Sunday, June 19, 2022, with her loving mom and sister at her side.
Denise was born on July 21, 1964, the third child of Donald and Virginia (Klapperich) Gefre in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She was raised in Ypsilanti alongside her two older siblings, Anna and Daniel. At age three, Denise began attending High Point School in Ann Arbor, where she enjoyed school activities and meeting friends. She looked forward to the annual Special Olympics where she excelled at the long-jump and running. She demonstrated persistence in whatever endeavor she set her heart on to accomplish; often saying, “I do myself!” Denise really loved school dances and events where she would show everyone her dance moves! At age 26, she graduated from High Point School with so many wonderful friendships and memories.
In 1990, after graduation, Denise took a position with the PACE Group of Washtenaw County working four to five days a week. She was so proud of her job and the responsibilities entrusted to her; especially her shredding duties and making greeting cards. Her creative leader, Dorothy, became a lifelong friend. Always being social, Denise met many new friends and shared great times with the Friendship Club celebrating birthdays! It would often seem wherever she went, Denise would recognize a friend and quickly reached out to them for a hug, smile, and chat.
She had the unique ability to be a calming presence to animals of all types and could quickly form a bond with her many pets: birds, hamsters, cats, and dogs. Denise had a special relationship with her sister’s dog, LiLah, who provided comfort to Denise most recently during her time under Hospice care. Music was also a huge part of her life from a very young age and brought her endless joy. As a kid, she would continuously replay records and dance with glee to Christmas and Motown music. Denise’s iPad is filled with Dirty Dancing and John Denver music and she loved to listen and sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home” and Don McClain’s “Bye-Bye American Pie” and, of course, Christmas songs!
Denise was very active and enjoyed bike rides and long walks which gave her the opportunity to explore nature. A sports enthusiast, Denise enjoyed playing baseball, basketball, bowling, putt-putt, and tennis, or, as Denise called it “bounce-hit.” During summer camping trips with her family, Denise treasured her fishing adventures in the campsite pond and hours of biking.
Denise loved living in her own apartment enjoying the company of her roommate, Kari, and favorite caregiver, Autumn. She looked forward to outings with her family and friends especially her Starbucks coffee dates and overnight stays with Ann and Mom! During family visits, she would immediately ask “pictures for me?” as she loved looking through photos of recent events and sights and share stories from her perspective. She spent joy-filled hours organizing and re-organizing her photo albums and adored her photobooks! Her iPad is filled with photos shared by family and friends as well those pictures Denise took herself! She mastered her iPad photo gallery and FaceTime was a favorite pastime! Denise was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit Disney World many times, most recently in January of 2022. She loved driving the car at Adventureland and absolutely insisted that the day start and end on that ride with smiles and laughter.
There were no strangers in her life- if you met Denise once she’d remember you for a lifetime and greet you with a warm smile and the best bear hug you’d ever have. “Neecy,” as Denise is known by her closest friends and family, was a delightful, kind, and joyous “one of kind” amazing young lady who will be dearly missed and forever in our hearts.
She was preceded in death by her father, Donald E. Gefre, and her brother-in-law, Kevin Gage.
Denise will be missed by her mother, Virginia Gefre; her siblings, Ann Gage and Daniel Gefre; her nephews, Andrew (Luci) Gefre, Ryan (Jordan) Gage, and Joshua (Sara) Gage; her great-nieces, Caroline Grace Gage and Elizabeth Olivia Gage; and her aunt, Ramona Gefre. She will also be deeply missed by many cousins and a multitude of friends.
Memorial Gathering will be held on Friday, June 24, 2022 at Nie Family Funeral Home, 2400 Carpenter Road, Ann Arbor, from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Funeral Mass will take place on Saturday, June 25, 2022 at 11:00 am St. Joseph Catholic Church, 9425 Whittaker Road, Ypsilanti. Family and friends are welcome to gather at 10:00 am. Burial of cremated remains will follow the Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made in Denise’s honor to Arbor Hospice or a charity of your own choice.