Rucilla Marjorie Laird Coulston of Niles died on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at the age of 91 years. She had been a resident of Niles for most of her adult life, most recently at West Woods and Brentwood, following the nearly unbearable loss of her husband, in 2013. Rucilla’s children wish to express their sincere appreciation to the employees at Brentwood of Niles, West Woods, and the many friends who have eased the burden of her death with kind deeds, kind words, and kind thoughts.
Rucilla was born in Rochester, Michigan, on August 8, 1927, the eldest child of Marion Hooper Laird and Cecil B. Laird. She graduated from Harbor Beach High School in 1944 and she attended Albion College for one inauspicious year, which experience she later looked upon as an important life lesson.
She spent her formative years near Harbor Beach, Michigan where she attended school, played in the woods and fields with her brother Joe and the neighbors (the Williams kids), swam in gravel pits and Lake Huron, and did a lot of reading – books, magazines, newspapers – beginning at a very early age.
It was in Harbor Beach that she met the love of her life. Just barely 20-years old, she married Ellwin Coulston on September 13, 1947 in Bad Axe, Michigan, and after a chilly honeymoon at Carp Lake (now re-named “Paradise Lake”), Michigan they moved into a very humble dwelling at Michigan State College in East Lansing. Their home in Married Housing was a 9 feet by 19 feet one room trailer which shared a communal bathroom with several other trailers and their occupants. Just prior to Ellwin’s graduation a nursery was added to the mix when their first child was born. After graduation Ellwin took a job at Kawneer Company in Niles and Rucilla set up housekeeping near enough to his work so that he could walk to work, and she could walk to the grocery store. Kids came along pretty regularly then, and she had five by 1955. She used to say that her only rest came while recuperating from childbirth. She added one more to her brood in 1960.
Without a car her life was pretty limited, except for her frequent forays to the Niles Public Library at Fourth & Main streets and later, to its home on Cedar Street. With her constant presence there she instilled in her own young children the importance of reading. But others benefitted from her habit, as well, when Rucilla tutored new readers, and otherwise generously gave of herself. She served her community by volunteering with the Ladies’ Reading Club. For many years she was a member of the Niles District Library board, serving as president for multiple years. As para-professional with the Brandywine Schools Rucilla achieved success in improving the lives of many people. While living in Norcross, Georgia, she served the community. Rucilla also donated books to Goodwill – sometimes more than once if she saw it for sale on their shelves and decided to read it again. Christmas was always a time for book giving.
Rucilla also loved reading magazines and small-town newspapers. She subscribed to The New Yorker, and read it voraciously, for over 60 years.
Rucilla was a daring, inventive, and excellent cook who was never afraid to try something new or to tweak a recipe she found a little wanting. With six kids frugality was a way of life, but not a burden. She simply cooked. And she loved to read cookbooks, too!
A lover of nature, Rucilla believed in bringing nature as close as possible. Birds, ferns, flowers, trees, and wild things were welcomed into her yard. And, of course, she had a collection of authoritative books about each.
By living simply, Rucilla and Ellwin were able to help others. While the Niles District Library was her favorite recipient, Rucilla was also instrumental in funding the Ann Coulston Scholarship at Brandywine High School, donations to the Berrien County Humane Society, as well as many other annual monetary gifts to charities.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband Ellwin, her daughter Ann, and brother Joseph Laird. Surviving are daughter Marion (Jim) Maier of Stevensville, sons Neil (Trish) of Niles, Paul (Claire) of Berrien Springs, David (Susan) of Niles, and Mark (Cari) of Eau Claire, as well as 11 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren, brother John of Texas, and many nephews and nieces. Also, Rucilla’s faithful feline companion, Sydney.
Services for Rucilla Coulston will be at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 29, 2019 at the Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles, with the Rev. Jan VanLear of Buchanan, Michigan officiating. The family will receive relatives and friends at the funeral home beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday. Contributions in memory of Rucilla may be made to the Ann Coulston Memorial Scholarship c/o Michigan Gateway Community Foundation, 111 Days Avenue, Buchanan, Michigan, 49107, https://mgcf.org/; or to the Niles District Library, 620 East Main Street, Niles, Michigan, 49120, https://www.nileslibrary.com/#. Online condolences may be left at: www.halbritterwickens.com