Mabel Myrtle Panarites, formerly of Niles, Michigan having successfully attained the remarkable age of 100 years, died peacefully on Monday, July 9, 2018 in Peoria, Arizona following a brief illness.
She was born on September 20, 1917 in Michigan City, Indiana to Bessie (née Wuersch), a homemaker and Arnold Pawloski. Moving as a small and only child to Niles, her father worked as an engineer on the Michigan Central Railroad (and its successor, the New York Central) driving steam locomotives between Niles and Chicago on freight trains and on the legendary Wolverine passenger line. Bessie was active at Niles’ Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church including time spent with the women’s mission society “rolling bandages”. Mabel began studying piano in Niles, and then as a teen traveled alone on the railroad to Chicago to study at the Sherwood Music School. She was graduated from Niles High School.
Always an independent woman, Mabel attended Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo), again commuting by train, and then transferred to the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) where she attained her Bachelor of Education degree with the class of 1939. She began her teaching career in the town of Chelsea, Michigan, where she met and on November 27, 1940 married Nicholas J. Panarites. They moved to Detroit, Michigan where Nic trained for a try-out for the Detroit Lions, with Mabel running alongside, jumping small landscape fences. Nic worked for Vickers, Inc. (later Sperry Vickers), while Mabel was a secretary to the engineers at General Motors, both supporting the “war effort” during World War II.
After the war, the couple had one child, Dianne. Mabel stayed at home giving piano lessons to as many as 100 students per week. She encouraged neighborhood children to walk a mile a day, and took them to plays, art museums, and other cultural events. A friend of Dianne stated that this exposure to the Arts, along with the example of Mabel’s independence, and her encouragement inspired her to go to college. Mabel stressed independence for all women long before that principle became fashionable.
Mabel continued her education, earning a Master’s degree in Latin from Wayne State University (Detroit). She and Nic returned to Niles where she cared for her parents, Arnold living to the age of 96 and Bessie to 102. Mabel was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Niles, and the Niles Garden Club. She continued to enjoy the arts, including her piano at home, and enjoyed the fellowship of their neighborhood, walking, and golfing. She competed in the walking class of the annual Niles-Buchanan YMCA Thanksgiving Day Run – the “Turkey Trot” – winning her 70’s plus age division.
She and Nic celebrated the remarkable fifty-third anniversary of their wedding prior to his death on November 10, 1994.
Surviving family includes their daughter, Dianne Strachan of Peoria, Arizona and her husband, Richard Barry Strachan with whom Mabel enjoyed talking about stocks and other investments. Also surviving are nieces and nephews including Douglas J. Dove, MD of Decatur, Illinois, Janine Preston of Redondo Beach, California, Steve Preston of Denver, Colorado, and Patricia Payne, Esq. of Washington, D.C. Mabel enjoyed traveling her friend Nancy B. Firestone, along with daughter Dianne and niece Pat.
“A life well lived. Quietly influencing many.”
The family of Mabel Panarites has gathered privately to share memories and honor her life. Committal was at the Greenwood Cemetery in Michigan City.
Contributions in memory of Mabel may be made to the First Presbyterian Church Music Department, 13 South Fourth Street, Niles, Michigan, 49120; http://www.firstpresofniles.org/. Arrangements locally were made at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mabel M. Panarites, please visit our floral store.
FPC Foundation, c/o First Presbyterian Church
13 South Fourth Street, Niles MI 49120