Julia Theresa (Durm) LaSata, 86, of Niles, Michigan, wife, mother, grandmother and proud
Registered Nurse, died peacefully on December 22, 2022. Julia was born on March 24, 1936 in
Niles Michigan and lived in Niles her entire life. She was dedicated to making her hometown,
and Berrien County, a better place for all residents.
After graduating from St. Francis School of Nursing in Evanston, Illinois as a Registered Nurse,
she worked briefly at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. She then happily returned to Niles
where she worked and taught nursing at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, Indiana. During this
time Julia met her husband Charles J. LaSata who was a lawyer in South Bend. They were
married in 1961 and would have celebrated their 60 th wedding anniversary until Charles’ passing
on January 1, 2021.
After buying her childhood home from her parents, Julia and Thomas Durm, she and Charlie
welcomed four children: Thomas Karol LaSata (infant son who predeceased her), Charles T.
LaSata, Laura L. O’Neill and Mary M. Spiegel. She and several of her siblings lived as
neighbors on and around their family farm. Few things made Julia happier than visiting her
siblings or watching various grandchildren, nephews, and nieces playing on the farm.
Julia deeply valued nature and believed that being outside was the best place to be. She served
as a member, then President, of the Greater Niles Recreation Board for years. She was
extraordinarily proud of her work for over 43 years as Chairperson and Board member on the
Berrien County Parks Board. Julia was instrumental in securing and developing Silver Beach
County Park for the public and never missed a chance to visit any number of our County Parks.
With deep roots in her community, Julia was involved in many organizations and projects. As a
member at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church, she was on the Parish Council,
advocated for girl altar servers and for years organized the legendary Pascal Meal. After her
children were grown, she worked as a Registered Nurse for the Berrien County Health
Department for several years with many close friends from Niles. When her children were
young, Julia could be seen every year in the stands at the Berrien County Youth Fair, or
volunteering at St. Mary’s School, as one of the original hot dog moms. She also dedicated
countless hours to the Niles Service League, notably in helping to organize the annual rummage
Berrien County was not the only place that held a special place in her heart. Julia particularly
loved going to her family’s cabin near St. Ignace, Michigan. She would visit with family and
enjoy sunsets over Lake Michigan.
For 50 years, she and her husband Charlie made an annual trek to Periwinkle Park on Sanibel
Island, Florida, where she they had many close friends from around the United States. On
Sanibel, Julia once again entrenched herself in the community and service projects. She started
the ‘coffee club’ in the park, where she sold coffee at .25 cents a cup and donated hundreds of
dollars to the City of Sanibel for its Parks. Ever the nurse, she began a blood pressure clinic and
served as the ‘camp nurse’ for friends and strangers alike. Anyone in need could knock on
Julia’s door at all hours and find help. She loved spending Christmas in the Park, never missing
a happy hour, sending her grandchildren (“elves”) out to run presents to her neighbors and
friends, and organizing luminaries on Christmas Eve.
In recent years, even though she was battling dementia, she still treasured spending time with her
family and caretakers (the “Ladies”), working in her gardens and a good game of cribbage. She
loved laughter and often found it by playing practical jokes on her grandchildren.
Surviving family include her children: Charlie (Kim) LaSata of Coloma, Michigan; Laura (Dan) O’Neill,
of Chicago, Illinois; and Mary (Jim) Spiegel of Benton Harbor; grandchildren:
Sarah, Anna, Chas, and Claire LaSata; Tim, John, Robert, and Annie O’Neill; and Julia and
Eileen Spiegel; her siblings: Charles Durm of Niles, Michigan; Mary (Tom) Mechtenberg of
Kalamazoo, Michigan; Joseph (Sandra) Durm of St. Ignace, Michigan; and Marge (Donald)
Hiatt of Niles, Michigan; along with many nieces and nephews.
The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, December 30, 2022, at
Saint Mary Catholic Church, 207 South Lincoln Street in Niles by the Rev. Christian Johnston.
Committal Rites will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Niles.
The family will receive relatives and friends from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. on Thursday,
December 29th at Halbritter-Wickens Funeral Home 615 E. Main, Niles, Michigan with
recitation of The Rosary at 6:30 p.m. Contributions in memory of Julia may be made to Berrien
County Parks via the Berrien Community Foundation at
www.berriencommunity.org/bcparksfund, and the Saint Mary Parish Christian Service Center,
219 South State Street, Niles, Michigan, 49120. Arrangements were made at the Halbritter-
Wickens Funeral Home, 615 East Main Street in Niles. Online condolences may be left at: