Lois L. Blass, 98, passed on July 16, 2021, in Grand Rapids, MI. She was preceded in death by her spouse Anthony “Tony” Blass, her parents, brother Jack, older son Lonnie, and a close cousin Ellen Jane Ross. Lois is survived by her daughter Bonnie Monhart (Curt), son Doug Blass, granddaughters Kristen Nelhart (Paul), Katie Monhart (Matt Palas), grandsons Steven and Daniel, five great grandchildren-Hudson, Parker, Xander, Blake and Andie, and two close cousins, Jim Ross (Erin) and Carol Ann Courson (Mick).
Lois was born May 8, 1923, in Danville, Illinois. She was the second child, and only daughter, of Foster Vaughn and Nora Witherspoon Vaughn. Lois graduated from Danville High School in only three years along with her older brother Jack (much to his chagrin). Following graduation, one of her first jobs was a switchboard operator at the Danville Hospital.
Lois met Tony Blass, who was stationed in Danville in 1943, at a World War II serviceman’s dance. They were married after a six-week courtship, a marriage lasting 57 years. Soon afterwards, Tony was deployed to the European theatre.
After the war Tony pursued a mining engineering degree from the New Mexico School of Mines on the GI Bill. While living in New Mexico, Lois and Tony had two children-first a boy, Lawrence (Lonnie), and then a girl, Bonnie. From birth Lonnie suffered from severe mental retardation, eventually requiring institutional care.
Following graduation, they moved to Linton, IN where Tony worked as a coal mining engineer. While in Linton, Doug, their third child, was born. They next moved to Carrier Mills, IL where Tony continued his job. After a five-year mining career, he then became the Assistant Director of the Physical Plant at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, eventually becoming the Director. Tony was at SIU for over 30 years.
During their early years in Carbondale, it became apparent Lonnie required specialized care. Around this time Lois and Tony became involved in The Association of Retarded Children, now known as the ARC. They were instrumental in forming the first ARC chapter in Carbondale. Lonnie was enrolled in St. Colletta in Jefferson, Wisconsin, a school for the mentally handicapped. To cover the cost of the care, Lois sharpened her typing and shorthand skills and went to work at SIU as an administrative assistant in the president’s office. During this time Lonnie was transferred to the Van Hook School in central Florida.
After a 19-year career, Lois retired from the university. The plan was for Tony to do the same and they would move to central Florida to be closer to Lonnie. Tony did retire from SIU, but before relocating to Florida, he learned of a job opening at the University of Central Florida in Orlando for a Director of the Physical Plant and was hired. Tony worked there for five years before finally retiring and moving to the Ormond Beach, FL area where they built a new house.
Lonnie passed in 1999 and Tony followed in 2000. Lois sold the house six years later and moved into a condominium in downtown Ormond Beach where she lived for 10 years. Suffering from impaired eyesight and physical mobility, she moved into an assisted living facility. In 2018 Lois moved to Grand Rapids, MI where she could be closer to Bonnie and her family.
For over 20 years while living in Carbondale, IL and Winter Park, FL. Lois was a member of Beta Sigma Phi, an international women’s friendship sorority. She was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She started, and was president of, the Carbondale chapter. Lois could trace her ancestry through her mother’s side of the family to John Witherspoon, a Scottish immigrant who became the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Lois was a life-long member of the United Methodist Church.
Lois was an independent, strong, and stoic woman known for her warmth, kindness, and compassion. She will be deeply missed.
Services will be at 12:00 pm July 24th at the Metcalf & Jonkhoff Funeral Home in Grand Rapids, MI. Interment will be with her husband Tony, and son Lonnie, at the National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL.
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